Panthers quarterback Cam Newton understands he could play better. He knows his team could be a game or two better. But as he walked out of Tampa Bay yesterday after another win, he was viewing the glass as half-ful.
“I’m not going to be ‘Debbie Downer,’ ” Newton said, via David Newton of ESPN.com. “I’m not going to allow anyone to play ‘Debbie Downer’ for us. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of teams that wish they were 5-3.”
Of course, there are teams better than 5-3 in the NFC. Five of them, in fact, which means if the season ended today, the Panthers would be the sixth seed in the playoffs. Also, a lot of people would be wondering why the season ended before the end of Week Eight.
But Newton has plenty to work on in the second half, as he got a split out of his team’s defense holding the opponent without an offensive touchdown. A week ago, it was a 17-3 loss to the Bears on two long return touchdowns by the Bears defense. Sunday, the Panthers got a pair of offensive touchdowns. That’s far from the form they showed not that long ago while getting road wins against the Lions and Patriots, but it’s something.
Newton didn’t have much of a stat line (18-of-32, 154 yards, a touchdown and an interception), but he’s choosing to take the longer view.
“Offensively, holding myself to a higher standard,” he said. “Just a one-week mentality. With that mentality, that got us a win today. A lot of people may say it wasn’t how they wanted it to turn out, but it was how we wanted it to turn out. We got the win, and we’re expecting bigger things moving forward.”
That starts with his own play, which has been down and up an back down again, after he came back from offseason shoulder surgery. The way their defense is playing, he doesn’t have to get back to an MVP level again, but if he approaches it, the Panthers have a chance to be more than a fringe playoff team.