The biggest show of the year is over. The Denver Broncos beat the Panthers 24-10 and claimed the Lombardi Trophy. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers had one heck of a ride. But now that the party is over, will the respect still be there for Newton? America loves winners. But will the love remain for Superman?
Cam Newton helped the Panthers achieve something that hadn’t been done in 12 years. He helped engineer a return to the Super Bowl. En route to the big dance, the Panthers almost went undefeated. Carolina finished the campaign 15-1. By doing so, they became only the sixth team to end the regular season with that many victories.
After such a dreamlike pounding of the regular season opponents, the Panthers cruised through the playoffs. Newton showed grit against Seattle. Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals looked like a sandlot team. Cam Newton’s playoff stats, per the NFL Network, were astounding. Newton was able to put together two postseason games that backed his MVP status.
In those two games, his combined completion percentage was 70.0. His passer rating was a sky-high 113.4 and he averaged 9.9 yards per completion. Newton and the Panthers were powering towards Super Bowl L and there was no stopping them.
Then a funny thing happened. The Super Bowl was finally played and Newton looked like a college rookie. The simple read-option offense – that propelled the Panthers to their second championship game – was looking like a huge bust.
Superman was suddenly a human.
The Denver Broncos defense came as advertised. Von Miller and the rest of Denver’s speedy defense became kryptonite for Carolina’s Superman. According to ESPN stats, Newton was sacked seven times. He looked tentative with throws and had to leave the pocket often.
Denver’s Aquib Talib didn’t hold back his emotions.
“There ain’t no Easter Bunny, there ain’t no Santa Claus, there ain’t no Superman.”
But Newton wasn’t alone in his futility. There were tons of dropped balls to go around. Ted Ginn Jr. was guilty of six miscues. With all that’s being said, the blame will be placed on Newton’s head. It’s the nature of the game. When you’re the star player, you’re called on to shoulder the blame.
The NFL is a cruel universe that has no mercy for quarterbacks. They often get too much credit when a team wins and a huge part when they lose. Cam Newton had one regular season loss to help him prepare for the Super Bowl meltdown. The one on center stage was the biggest.
After the game, when he approached the sea of reporters, the disappointment on Newton’s face was evident. He had just lost the biggest game of his life. He answered in soft-spoken, short phrases, before leaving. His dapper appearance was replaced with a black hoodie, to match his mood. He summed up the media session, with his longest answer.
“They just played better than us,” Newton reflected. “I don’t know what you want me to say. They made more plays than us, and that’s what it came down to. We had opportunities. There wasn’t nothing special that they did. We dropped balls, we turned the ball over, gave up sacks, threw errant passes. That’s it. They scored more points than us.”
Much has been said and much will be said about Newton’s “attitude” after the game. Some are saying he showed his selfishness, others are saying he’s a crybaby. Some are even taking the thug angle, since he wore the hoodie. The question is simple. Is the respect still there for Superman?
Newton did what many people do after losing. What’s the big deal? He’ll look back on the experience and learn from the mistakes he made. That’s the beauty of life. Mistakes help with the same situation, if it comes around again.
Cam Newton had a tremendous season. One game shouldn’t turn America against a young man who’s still learning. But America does love winners. Newton having an attitude and being disappointed could easily affect world peace. Until that happens, Superman shouldn’t struggle to find the respect he once had.
[Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]