The self-proclaimed "icon and entertainer" is back on track after a slow start to the 2012 season.
After avoiding the rookie wall last season, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton experienced a sophomore landslide this year until finding his footing during a 30â22 win on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.
Newton completed 18-of-28 passes for 306 yards, two TDs and zero INTs through the air, while tucking the ball to run for 52 yards and two TDs on the ground in a prime time victory.
The four-score effort brought back memories of the a phenomenal first year that included a rookie-record 4,051 passing yards, 21 passing TDs, 706 rushing yards and a quarterback-record 14 rushing TDs en route to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and a trip to the Pro Bowl.
âHe was very decisive, and thatâs when you see his ability, his athleticism come through,â said Panthers second-year coach Ron Rivera, who entered the nationally televised game with a 2â8 record and a spot firmly on the proverbial hot seat.
âWe put a lot on his plate early in the year, and weâve taken some of it back. Heâs reacting to that very well. The last few weeks heâs been outstanding, and heâs giving us a chance to win.â
After accounting for eight TDs and 11 turnovers while leading the Cats to a 1â6 start to the season, Newton has reversed field to the tune of nine TDs and just two turnovers during Carolinaâs recent 2â2 stretch â which has included road wins at Washington and Philadelphia, with home losses to Denver and Tampa Bay.
âCam is not trying to carry everything,â said receiver Steve Smith. âHeâs just relaxing. He seemed very comfortable (against the Eagles) and threw some great passes.â
Never was that comfort level more evident than late in the fourth quarter on Monday night. Heading into Philly, the Panthers had held fourth-quarter leads in five of their previous six losses â a fact that had to be on the mind of every fan, player and coach wearing electric blue and black.
But Newton calmly led a six-play, 60-yard drive that was capped by a two-yard QB-sneak TD and Camâs signature Superman celebration.
Rather than losing yet another close call â six of Carolinaâs eight losses have come by six or fewer points â the Panthers pulled out a victory that could change the trajectory of this year and the near future in Charlotte.
âWinning is huge. It cures all,â said Rivera. âWeâve got to continue now. We have to take this momentum we have on a short week to Kansas City.â
With four of their next five games coming against teams with sub-.500 records, Carolina could turn it around â especially if Newton keeps it up.
âI think my best is yet to come,â said Newton. âIâm still focused on getting better each and every week.â