With so much attention focused on rising stars like Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick, the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton has been widely overlooked as a young star quarterback.
Newton led the Panthers to a 31-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday night, accounting for three touchdowns in another controlled, stellar performance. He was 23-for-32 passing for 221 yards and two TDs, while running for another.
In his last three games, Newton has completed 77.3 percent of his passes (58 of 75) for 667 yards and six touchdowns, with no interceptions. The Panthers have had no turnovers during that span.
“I think you might have quoted me as saying, ‘When Cam’s hot, we’re hot,’ earlier in the year. I think that’s more true now than ever,” Tampa Bay tackle Jordan Gross said. “The thing that’s great about him is I wouldn’t even necessarily say he’s been hot. He’s just been good – smart with the ball, running for first downs, diving on the ground, not taking as many hits.
“He’s just managing the game really, really well. I think he knows he doesn’t have to do it all.”
Newton’s performance was in stark contrast to his showing in the Panthers’ 36-7 loss to the Giants during a Thursday night game last season, when he finished with three interceptions and a career-low 40.6 passer rating.
His team is 4-3 and feeling great about where it is going into next week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s a relief in numerous reasons, but being (above) .500 is just a small percentage of it,” Newton said. “We’ve got to keep meshing as a team, keep building off and keep getting momentum in the upcoming weeks because we’re about to hit the meat of our schedule and we’re going to need every single ounce of energy that we’ll have.”
Newton overcame big drops by Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon LaFell with the help of four wide receivers, two tight ends, two running backs and a fullback. Ginn led the way with 80 yards on five, but Steve Smith finished with four catches for 37 yards. Fullback Mike Tolbert’s four catches for 29 led the backfield, and No. 2 receiver LaFell had 23 yards and Greg Olsen had 21.
Five Panthers had multiple catches, and seldom-used receiver Domenik Hixon, running back Kenjon Barner, tight end Richie Brockel and running back DeAngelo Williams each had one catch.