By Nathan Rush
Panthers rookie Cam Newton held the NFL record for passing yards in Weeks 1 and 2 for about three hours, before Patriots three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady raised the bar even higher later in the afternoon.
Newton’s 854 passing yards in his first two games topped the previous NFL mark of 827 yards — set by the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” orchestrator Kurt Warner in 2000 — until Brady finished his day’s work, having compiled a gaudy 940 yards over the first two weeks of the season.
In the process, Newton and Brady became the sixth and seventh quarterbacks in NFL history, respectively, to record back-to-back 400-yard passing games — in Weeks 1 and 2 of 2011, or any weeks of any season. The two join Dan Fouts (1982), Dan Marino (1984), Phil Simms (1985), Billy Volek (2004) and Matt Cassel (2008) in the prolific “400-400” club.
The fact that Newton is being mentioned in the same historical breath as sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer Brady speaks volumes. But it should not come as a complete surprise.
Newton’s meteoric rise has been astonishing. He is on an unprecedented three-year run, leading Blinn (Texas) College to the NJCAA national title in 2009; raising both the BCS national championship crystal and the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 2010; and becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the Carolina Panthers and the face of Under Armour in 2011.
Newton has shown no signs of slowing down. He now owns the NFL single-game rookie passing yards record (432) and is the first Panther with back-to-back 300-yard passing games since Steve Beuerlein in 1999.
Newton’s NFL debut was widely publicized. The 6'5", 248-pounder completed 24-of-37 passes for 422 yards, two TDs and one INT, while scrambling for another TD during a hard-fought 28–21 loss at Arizona.
But his home debut in Charlotte may have been even more impressive, as Newton completed 28-of-46 passes for 432 yards, one TD and three INTs, while tucking the ball 10 times to run for 53 yards and a trip to the end zone in a 30–23 loss to the reigning Super Bowl champion Packers.
Despite jumping out to a 13–0 lead, Newton could not lead Carolina to victory, a fact that frustrated Newton, who was quick to point out that these are not last year’s 2–14 Panthers; Cam’s team doesn’t just hope to “compete,” they expect to “win.”
“We’re going to get it right. I’m not the person to just sit up here and say, ‘Well, we have next time.’ I’m not that type of person. I want it right now and I’m going to get it right now.”
And Newton’s attitude and aura were not lost on the Packers.
“I think someone said in the locker room that I’m kind of glad we played him early in the season,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, “because when he figures it out fully, he’s going to be even tougher to stop.”