In the third quarter of his first NFL game, Cam Newton did what he did so often at Auburn: Score a rushing touchdown.
And after that he did something that Panthers coach Ron Rivera will surely tell him never to do again: Pick up a penalty for excessive celebration.
Newton’s touchdown showed off his incredible athletic ability, as he leapt over a pile and stuck the ball across the goal line. It was a great play that continued a great first game so far for Newton.
But Newton wasn’t content just to jog off to the sideline after he scored. Instead, he decided to act like an entertainer and icon: He ran into the end zone after the play was over, got down on one knee, waved his arm around and then got back up and preened a little more. Any celebration that includes the player going to the ground is an automatic flag, and so the Panthers were penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff.
That celebration was a mistake, but Newton has looked sensational. In addition to the rushing touchdown, he has completed 15 of 21 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, and it’s not even the fourth quarter yet. Heading into today, Peyton Manning owned the NFL record for passing yards by a rookie in Week One, with 302 yards in his debut in 1998. Newton owns that record now.