The biggest knock against the Carolina Panthers was the inconsistent play of quarterback Cam Newton. He had an answer for that Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. He spoke to his critics loud and clear. Newton completed 81 percent of his passes en route to a 27-10 drubbing of the Titans.
Newton completed his first 11 passes against a Titans defense ranked No. 3 in the league. He diced and sliced the Tennessee secondary like a sushi chef. In previous games, Newton has managed to be average and win with flashes of brilliance. This was a complete game effort. He wasn’t spectacular against the Titans, but he was more efficient than he’s ever been.
Newton has been mentioned in the race for MVP this season. One thing that has kept him in the doghouse with many doubters was his low completion ratio. In the first eight games of the season, Newton’s completion percentage was always below 60 percent. Against the Texans and the Colts, his percentage dropped below 50. Yet the Panthers were still able to win. The balance of the Panthers is what has kept him in the conversation.
Despite being sacked five times by the Titans’ pass rush, Newton was able to remain effective in the offense and find his receivers. Greg Olsen had eight catches — on eight targets — for 80 yards. The Panthers’ tight end had a magnificent one-handed catch in the second half. But he gave the credit to Newton for having such an amazing touch during the game.
“For the most part, everything was at your hands,” Olsen said, via ESPN. “Even if you had to go down and get it, it was super catchable, super easy and friendly balls.”
Newton made it happen. Through three quarters, the Titans kept things close. But when it mattered, the Panthers were able to rely on the decisions he made Sunday. Tight end Greg Olsen teased Newton on the sidelines about not being in the game plan for Tennessee. Newton was confident and quick with his comeback.
“He was teasing on the sideline, saying ‘I don’t think they put me in the game plan.’ I told him I don’t care, I’m going to keep giving you the ball.”
That was Cam Newton’s attitude the entire game. He played with a chip on his shoulder and was determined to show that the Panthers are for real.
Interim coach Mike Mularkey was thoroughly impressed with the Panthers and Newton. His team was overmatched by Carolina and did all they could to stay with the undefeated Black and Blue.
“They’re just efficient,” Mularkey said of the Panthers. “It’s not going to be 500 yards of offense and 40 points. It’s just possess-the-football, wear-you-down-eventually.”
That’s what the league is learning about the Panthers. They have a subtle way of dominating a team, but it gets done.
Life is sweet when you’re the quarterback of a 9-0 team.
After scoring a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, Newton popped up and did an end-zone dance. The celebration wasn’t his patented superman chest rip. It was a dance that he says was inspired by his little brother. Titans’ linebacker Avery Williamson didn’t like the excessive celebration and confronted Newton. Williams and Mularkey thought the Panthers should have been flagged for taunting.
“I don’t like it personally. He wants to be the man, so he wants to celebrate because he scored,” Williamson said. “But I don’t personally go for that stuff.”
When Williamson confronted Newton for dancing after the touchdown, Newton politely started doing more of the dance. The anger was evident as the referees had to separate the teams. During the post-game interview, Newton was asked about the incident and gave a matter-of-fact answer.
“If you don’t want me to do it… then keep me out.”
Newton has an answer for everything. But so far, nine teams haven’t had an answer for the Panthers.
[Photo by Andy Lyons / Getty Images]