NFL morning after: Cam Newton silences his critics

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If you don’t like Cam Newton after watching him on Sunday against the Falcons, it says more about you than it does about him.

It was such a pleasure to see Newton, the Panthers’ second-year quarterback, look like Cam Newton again in Sunday’s 30-20 upset of the Falcons. Newton was absolutely amazing, throwing the ball with velocity and accuracy on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen and having one of the best runs in the NFL all season and then doing a flip into the end zone on a 72-yard touchdown. That score gave Carolina a 23-0 lead against an Atlanta team that entered Sunday’s game with the best record in football.

The Panthers blowing out the Falcons on Sunday was a big surprise, but this was the Cam Newton I expected to see all season.

Of course, I’m the idiot who picked the Panthers to win the NFC South this season, so perhaps I was a little too optimistic about Newton. But while I may have been too quick to anoint Newton a star after his excellent rookie season, much of the football world was way too quick to jump all over Newton when he struggled at some points this season. The negative stories got really silly, with people getting on his case for everything from supposedly taking too long to get dressed after a game and holding up the team bus (which the Panthers said didn’t happen) to allegedly failing to show the proper deference to veterans at last year’s Pro Bowl (which was a bizarre story to surface 10 months later). Just as I didn’t understand the obsession so many people had with all of his off-field activities when he was winning the Heisman Trophy at Auburn, and didn’t understand the pre-draft criticisms of his allegedly fake smile, I don’t understand why so many people try so hard to paint Newton in a negative light this season.

It’s true that early in the season, Newton’s performance on the field did give his critics some ammunition. He had two interceptions in a loss to the Buccaneers, three interceptions in a loss to the Giants, an interception and a fumble in a loss to the Cowboys, two interceptions and two fumbles in a loss to the Bears and two interceptions and a fumble in a loss to the Broncos. He’s made his share of mistakes.

But the thing we have to remember is, that’s what 23-year-old quarterbacks do. Newton’s shockingly good rookie season last year and the success of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson may have made us forget this, but playing quarterback in the NFL is hard. Really hard. And not many people can walk right out of college football and perform at a high level in the NFL. Newton played at such a high level as a rookie that maybe we should treat a step back in his second season not as an invitation to rip him mercilessly, but as a simple example of regression to the mean.

And after Sunday’s game against the Falcons, I’m not so sure that Newton has really regressed anyway. He’s now on pace to throw for 3,963 yards this season, just short of his rookie record 4,051 last year. And he’s on pace to run for 788 yards, even better than the impressive 706 he gained as a rookie. In the last four games, Newton has a total of 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions and zero fumbles.

The 4-9 Panthers have plenty of problems. Their defense is mediocre, their special teams are terrible, and their much-hyped running back trio of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert isn’t playing well enough to merit their hype — or their contracts. But one problem they don’t have is a question mark at the quarterback position. They answered that question for years to come on the day they drafted Cam Newton.

Newton was the player who impressed me most on Sunday. Here are my other thoughts:

Rex Ryan’s decision to deactivate quarterback Greg McElroy tells me a lot about the Jets. It tells me that they think Mark Sanchez is so mentally weak that he would have been looking over his shoulder if the option of benching him for McElroy existed. That’s not a good sign. Ryan’s decision to go back to Sanchez after benching him for McElroy last week worked, in the sense that the Jets won. But it worked out for the Jets because they were playing the terrible Jaguars, not because Sanchez played well. Sanchez completed just 12 of 19 passes for 111 yards against one of the worst defenses in the NFL in Jacksonville. Ryan won’t bench Sanchez, but he should.

We still have some great running backs in this league. The NFL has become, more than ever before, a passing league. But there are still some phenomenal running backs, and two of them got off to phenomenal starts on Sunday: Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles had 103 yards in the first quarter against the Browns, and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson had 104 yards in the first quarter against the Bears. Charles and Peterson are both coming off major reconstructive knee surgery, and yet Charles is 11 carries away from surpassing Jim Brown for the NFL record for yards-per-carry average (a record that requires a minimum of 750 career carries; Charles has 739), while Peterson is closing in on a 2,000-yard season.

The officials are using automatic replay reviews as a crutch for getting calls wrong on the field. In the second quarter of Jets-Jaguars, the Jets fumbled and Jacksonville’s Dwight Lowery recovered. Lowery was obviously down when he jumped on the ball, and yet the officials allowed him to get up and race to the end zone for a touchdown, without blowing the play dead. The reason? The officials are now letting plays go because they know scoring plays are automatically reviewed, and they figure replay will bail them out if they get it wrong. But that’s not what instant replay is intended to do: The officials should call every play as well as they can, not just abdicate their responsibility on the field and waste a bunch of time afterward when their mistakes get corrected on replay.

And sometimes even when they have a replay review the officials get the call wrong. In the second quarter of Titans-Colts, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck threw the ball just as he was being tackled, and Tennessee’s Will Witherspoon grabbed it and raced 40 yards to the end zone. Fortunately for the Colts, a replay angle clearly showed that Luck’s knee was down before he let go of the ball, so the interception would be overturned, right? Wrong. The referee somehow looked at the replay and allowed the Titans’ touchdown to stand. If the officials are going to use replay as a crutch, and then they’re going to get the call wrong even when they have that crutch, then the NFL has a serious problem on its hands.

Seattle may be the toughest place to play in the NFL. The Seahawks improved to 6-0 at home on Sunday with their demolition of the Cardinals, and it’s a good thing for the rest of the NFC that the Seahawks are probably going to have to go on the road in the playoffs, because I wouldn’t pick anyone to beat the Seahawks in Seattle. The Seahawks are winning with a great defense, an excellent running back in Marshawn Lynch and a good young quarterback in Russell Wilson. If only the Panthers could put that kind of team around Cam Newton.

53 responses to “NFL morning after: Cam Newton silences his critics

  1. “If you don’t like Cam Newton after watching him on Sunday against the Falcons, it says more about you than it does about him.”

    Just because he can play ball doesn’t mean I should like him.

  2. I don’t think they’re using it as a crutch so much as erring on the side of caution. The problem is if they whistle someone down and they were wrong there’s nothing they can do about it, whereas if they let the play go they can have it called back. I haven’t seen the play in question but it wouldn’t be the first time a ref just flat out blew the call. It’s also possible the league is telling them to do it this way.

  3. RGIII, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannenhill, Colin Kaepernick – man, the next 10 years will be great QB play in the NFL.

    So long Tony Romo, Mike Vick. Enjoy it while you can Eli, Peyton and T. Brady. The league is moving on.

  4. “If you don’t like Cam Newton after watching him on Sunday against the Falcons, it says more about you than it does about him.”

    To question his athletic ability is absurd. To question his personality and him getting paid to play in college is warrented. That may be why people don’t like him and they aren’t wrong for their opinions. Not a very good way to start this article especially when PFT has posted things about Cam this past season that highlighted his struggles.

  5. I’m a Panthers fan, and games like this always worry me. It’s great Cam looked good against a good team, but don’t forget, we still lost to the Chiefs last week and there’ll likely be a coaching change this offseason. The road isn’t going to be easy for Cam.

    I’m cautiously optimistic. This is the kind of Panthers game I expected after last year, and its dissapointing it didn’t show up until now.

  6. There’s a lot of good stuff about Cam. Expect to be slammed for it. Like you said Cam’s haters are relentless and they will undoubtedly find something wrong with his game yesterday.

    You started with my home team and ended with my adopted team Seattle. Wilson has been my guy since he stepped on the field at NC State. I happen to own him, Lynch and the Seahawks defense in fantasy. Unfortunately, sitting Wilson and Lynch probably cost me a win yesterday. (my opponent has 2 guys going tonight and I’m up 40 points) The hawks will be a tough out. Wilson got lazy on his int yesterday after extending the play. Normally he runs or throws that ball away. Having watched him play for 5 years, his extreme confidence gets him in trouble, late to the sideline, as a rule.

    But trust me, nobody wants to see them on the schedule.

  7. Hard situation to judge. Cam is 2nd in the NFL in yards per attempt (8.28) and in general plays the QB position pretty well, but this team keeps losing (the Chiefs?!? Are you KIDDING ME?!??)

    Would be surprised if they kept Ron Rivera around next year

  8. “If you don’t like Cam Newton after watching him on Sunday against the Falcons, it says more about you than it does about him.”

    Congrats to the Cam and the Panthers for winning…but I still don’t like him. Not for his ability to play or win, but as someone mentioned, his personality and the way he carries himself.

    Jay Cutler (one of the other most “disliked” QBs) has won more games this season than Cam, yet the author of this article is gushing all over Cam.

    Oops, I guess I see why you are so bias…you’re probably one those Cam Newton fanboys. “Of course, I’m the idiot who picked the Panthers to win the NFC South this season, so perhaps I was a little too optimistic about Newton.”

  9. He had an outstanding rookie year and everyone was ready to crown him the next great QB. Dont get me wrong, he is a very athletic young man. This year comes and he fails to lead over and over not to mention his outlandish way of celebrating. Now he has a good game and everyone is back on his bandwagon…..

  10. There will always be Cam haters out there. I for one will be on his band wagon for life. Take all your hatred and go home. This guy is for real. Go Cam!

  11. I just read your Seattle game comments (If only the Panthers could put that kind of team around Cam Newton)- what is your obsession with Cam Newton?
    And Russell Wilson – and RG3 – seeing a trend here.

  12. “…and then doing a flip into the end zone on a 72-yard touchdown”.

    That’s why I don’t like Cam Newton. How many other starting QBs in the NFL would do that? You’d think with as many TDs as he’s scored in his career, he would be able to act like he’s been there before by now. That said, he ALMOST completely makes up for his bs when he hands the ball to a kid.

  13. Re Newton and others: Why is it that when a QB has talent, but the team loses, it’s always about “what’s around him” even if another QB (who is reviled to this day with ignorant remarks by media and fans) had a similar talent level on offense and helped the team compete for playoff sports most of his tenure? Having more talent than another guy, does not make a guy a better QB. JD had far less talent than Newton but was a much better QUARTERBACK.

    I echo what others said about Newton, one does not have to like him just because he has talent.
    I think that statement would have been true if the author has said, “If you don’t like Russell Wilson, it’s about you, not him.” That kid is what the NFL is all about. He’s a long shot type guy who is intelligent, funny, humble and hardworking to go along with his talent. Those are the players I love the most. You can’t even hate them when they whoop your team (like his team did to mine earlier in the year).

    Damien Woody has already flat out said that Sanchez had a fragile psyche. Since he was a teammate and has no skin in the game now, I believe him.

  14. Seattle isn’t that bad to play in. The Packers won there this year. Also, the playoffs are a different animal, especially for rookies. I wouldn’t pick a rookie QB to win many playoff games.

  15. People don’t like Cam because as Larry from Bull Durham once said of “Nuke” Laloosh, “He’s got a million dollar arm and a five cent mind.”

  16. There were two really, really bad calls in that game, and even instant replay wasn’t enough.
    Roddy White clearly caught the ball on the 2 point conversion, and maintained possession while going to the ground. Fail.
    Shortly afterwards, a Carolina receiver initially caught the ball, but it was knocked out before he hit the ground. It went out of bounds.
    It was an incomplete pass, and they gave it to Carolina anyway, saying he fumbled out of bounds.
    I don’t have the time to explain it to the people that should know better, but I am wondering if some of these guys are the scabs that were on the field for the first few games this year.

  17. I’ll like Cam when Cam realizes he’s only a potion of his team. 4-9 and he thinks he’s “superman”. Superman would be undefeated. He should take a page, or all the pages, from Barry Sanders. Sure he’s good, but his lack of class overshadows any of the good in my book.

  18. I live in Charlotte and I can’t stand the kid. Come talk to me when he stops doing his first down finger point and his superman celebration when they are losing 31-7. Then I might have changed my mind about him. He’s clearly all about himself. Which is why I admire RG3. Just as talented but doesn’t act like a 5 year old.

  19. If Ron Reveira had the leverage he should as a head coach we might have seen the improvement in performance earlier…minus the gratuitous end zone flips and super fool poses. In short, Newton still has a lot of maturing to do.

  20. starderup: The two point conversion call was bad but Louis Murphy turned up field, hence a “receiver like motion”. I think Newton’s development is right where it should be. He started one year of major college football so he didnt come out as polished a passer as Luck, Griffin, and Wilson. Sanchez has a similar resume but Newton is far ahead of him. I could do without the first down point but th superman doesnt bather me. He only does it after a rushing touchdown. Every QB in the league acts like they just trucked Vince Wilfork after they run for a td, Aaron Rogers has a whole ad campaign based on it.

  21. While I don’t like how the officials will let a play continue instead of calling the play as they see it, I don’t feel they are using instant replay as a crutch, but rather, doing something the NFL does not insist on doing: using replay to get ANY call right, no matter the situation. A play will get automatically reviewed if it’s called a turnover (even if it blatantly isn’t) or a score. However, because the NFL never likes to be aggressive in what they allow to be reviewed, they don’t allow potential scoring or potential turnover plays to be reviewed. Thus, because the officials want to have to outcome be as accurate as possible, they call the game as they need to, as to allow them to verify and get it right.

    I look at this situation and I place it solely on the shoulders of the NFL and their methods and uses of the replay system. The whole purpose of the replay system should not be some small “game-within-the-game” strategy coaches have to manage or worry about, but rather about simply just getting the call on the field right. The NFL really needs to realize this and make the review process what it is in college in that EVERY play is being reviewed by someone NOT on the field the moment the play has concluded. This way, games can still progress quickly and on-field officials can call it as they see it and not worry if their potential call/no-call of a play will allow a replay challenge to occur.

  22. so now he has 2 wins against teams with a winning record in his career and now all of a sudden I’m supposed to like him. good call, he is a pompous jerk who only care’s about himself. don’t force feed me who I’m supposed to like and not like. if millions of people don’t like him then that says more about him, not the people.

  23. I would prefer Cam throws for 300 and 3 and wins every game. Not because I’m a Panthers fan, I can’t stand him when he loses.

  24. Yes because ONE great game silences two years worth of critisim. Cam is good I mean dude was flinging the falcons D around like rag dolls which is always fun to watch. Most people know he’s got skills,its all the other bs(superman while losing, not a team player) that turns people off. He’s still got A LOT of work to do on his game but if he stopped the nonsense he’d get more respect.

  25. People need to be talking about Adrian Peterson more. The fact that he’s doing what he is doing behind such a horrible passing game means his achievement so far this year is even more great considering the injury he’s coming off of. It’s a feat of historic proportions in this league.

    If the Vikings beat the odds and end up in the playoffs, you HAVE to give AP the MVP, as he will be the sole reason that happens.

  26. I look at only one statistic as far as QB’s go. How many games have you won. I could care less if this guy or any guy ran for 4000 yards in a season if he led his team to 5-11.
    Winning is all its about and unless he is going to run and pass like a maniac every week and take it on his back, then what’s the point. You end up with a lot of numbers that may mean something to you but the only real number, winning isn’t by your name.
    One other thing. In college whenever the team was within the 10 yard line, good ol cam never handed it off to the back or passed for a short td, it was cam running it in for all the glory.
    If I on your team as a running back and your keeping the ball and calling your number all the time, I’m outta there. Everyone has a job to do and if your doing mine, as a player I’m not a happy camper even if we win.
    That’s why a lot of players on his team don’t like the guy.

  27. winning by 10 points is a blowout? I guess the falcons blew out a lot more teams this years. Also as far as missed calls go, Roddy White caught a two point conversion with would have brought the game within 8 points with 5 minutes left. The inital ruling was a catch, which was overruled by Hoculli. The replay clearly shows he made the catch, even Periera agreed. The replay ref blew the call. To make matter worse, the next drive, the panthers got a first down on a play where the receiver clearly that bobbled the ball, clearly he fumbled it. either way, there was no Consistancy in how this game was officiated. Bring back the replacements refs and fire Ed Hocculli.

  28. Didn’t Rothlesburger win 14 games as a rookie and win a SB ring in year one or two? He didn’t run very much at all but he won. So all these accolades of how the running QB is changing the game is fine, once they start winning.

    RGIII, Cam and Wilson all have one thing in common, they went to teams who were very talented but one QB shy of being good.

    If any of them would have gone to Arizona or KC they would be running for their lives instead of the end zone. Makes a huge difference.

    The flip flop, the Vikes have one of the most talented teams in football but lack a QB. They would be the Giants equal if they had a QB.

  29. Sorry, but the superman thing was completely justified after the 72 yard touchdown run. It was awesome! Panthers fans needed a win like this! Happy to see that the team hasn’t given up even though the season is lost. Okay, I’m done.

    Please continue the hating!

  30. If you don’t like Cam Newton after watching him on Sunday against the Falcons, it says more about you than it does about him.

    I don’t like a QB’s play based on ONE game. I am lucky to have a great QB playing for my team, but even if I didn’t, I am not sure I would want Newton. He has not proven he can be consistent yet…it remains to be seen if he ever will.

  31. The touting of yards thrown in these articles is pointless to me. Everyone is throwing for more yards so that Newton holds the rookie record isn’t a major selling point i feel. Just like Stafford throwing for around 5000 yards again, doesn’t make me feel like he is an all time great or even great for that matter.

    Now, i think Newton is a decent QB who depending on hard-work and the Panthers improving who is around him could be a good QB but people always over hype and over criticize. It seems now people are quick to decide your the greatest or you just suck. Lets give these guys more rope before labeling someone.

  32. Football is a child’s game that grown men play. Celebrating is apart of football. Shoot, after Arron Rodgers scored a touchdown he did the “discount double check”. Out of all the celebrations in the end zone that occurred Sunday, some of you guys picked out ONE out of many. That mean the celebration is not what you don’t like, it is the person. One day I hope Cam grow up, but at the same time, the Cam nit-pickers need to grow up also.

  33. Well I’m not surprise that Cam N get so much criticism, the so called magicians already predicted him a bust before he even played a snap in the NFL. Now he’s proven them wrong that he can play, they find many more reasons to not like him.

    Oh and Ray Lewis last week came out and stated that Cam N didn’t “diss” him. Spending time hanging out in the off season, matter of fact espn did an article of Newton when he even stated Ray L called him and gave him advice in how to handle losing etc.

    Having a solid coaching staff who can make in adjustments, disclipne the players, teach fundamentals helps the qb along the team win.
    Something the lowly panthers don’t have.

    Btw good win panthers against my falcons. Where was this effort all year when it mattered the most? Only team performs when they are either doubted to loose big or a opposing team offends them with comments lol.

  34. Lol at the Jake D having less talent to work with than Cam N comment.

    Didn’t Jake D inherit a young Steve S in his prime, not at the twilight of his career with Cam N? Yep, also had a another complimentary wr in Mushin M.

    Didn’t Jake D have a great to solid top 5-15 scoring and total defense mostly throughout his tenure in Carolina? Yep

    Didn’t Jake D have a 1,000 yard rusher more than what Cam N has now? Yep

    When was the last time Williams or Stewart had a 1,000 yards or over rushing season ? 2009, what a joke that is.

    John F is head and shoulders a better coach than Ron R. Win and looses are a Team stat, not individual. Heck if that’s the case, where would the Vikings be without Adrian P? Christian P over the past 6-7 had 150 passes yards or less.

  35. Every offensive player celebrate after a 1st down or a td, that will never change unless the defense prevents them. Reading these comments on these boards gives me a good laugh. So since when you can not celebrate with the team after scoring a td?

    I guess Aaron R, Tom B are all about themselves because they celebrate after td’s? Rg3 high stepping 5-7 yards away for a td against the Vikings along jumping into the crowd of fans. I guess he’s all about himself too huh? Clearly not.

    So much hate for players to fail etc, when we all should sit back and enjoy watching our favorite teams play without complaining so much for the little things.

  36. [quote]Btw good win panthers against my falcons. Where was this effort all year when it mattered the most? Only team performs when they are either doubted to loose big or a opposing team offends them with comments lol.[/quote]

    Ain’t it the truth! Sure wish the Panthers could play like that all the time. Any time the Panthers are “supposed” to win, they fall flat. Other times you think they don’t have a chance and they come out looking like rock stars. Very Jekyll and Hyde! You never know which team will show up!

  37. burgundyandgold says:
    Dec 10, 2012 8:02 AM
    RGIII, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannenhill, Colin Kaepernick – man, the next 10 years will be great QB play in the NFL.

    So long Tony Romo, Mike Vick. Enjoy it while you can Eli, Peyton and T. Brady. The league is moving on.


    Ok, let’s take a look.

    Winning percent for RGIII, Luck, Newton, Wilson, Dalton, Tannenhill, Kaepernick this year: .518

    Winning percent for Eli, Peyton, Brady: .710

    League hardly moving on.

  38. Funny how winning changes perception. Somehow Aaron Rodgers TD celebration (which was obnoxious enough to get a TV commercial) doesnt make him arrogant or immature…

  39. I’m a lifelong Packer fan and am sick and tired page Aaron Rodger’s weird celebrations and Brady-like whining when things don’t go his way.

  40. Great points about the officiating. There is absolutely no excuse for screwing up a call AFTER reviewing the replay for two minutes. I was watching RedZone and Scott Hansen showed the angle where Luck’s knee was on the ground with the ball still in his hand, at about the exact same moment that the incompetent officials were confirming the call on the field. It is an embarrassment to the NFL when a TV studio analyst makes the correct call while the officials blow it. I also saw the inexplicable call on Roddy White’s 2-point conversion (another call which they blew even after reviewing it) and several other headscratchers yesterday. I recall watching the linesman stand 15 feet away from the play with an unobstructed view of Miles Austin juggling a ball in the end zone and clearly failing to gain possession before stepping out of bounds… and then screaming at the TV when he called it a TD. At least in that case, they corrected the error after review, but it was still shocking to me how anyone with two eyes and half a brain could ever blow such an obvious call in the first place. I suppose these “real” refs are better than the replacements, but they’re still just awful.

  41. It’s official time to climb back on the bandwagon after a few good games. Hall of Fame he we come again. Oh also on the Ref using the replay as a crutch. They should because to bigger mistake is to blow and a play down that isn’t than have a replay that may appear to be obvious. That’s my 2 cents

  42. The Seahawks may not have to go on the road in the playoffs. If the 49ers lose this week to the Pats and the Hawks take care of business in Buffalo (Toronto) it sets the Hawks up to win the division — keeping in mind your thought that you would not pick anyone to beat Seattle at home. Seattle would essentially control their own destiny. They would have two home game remaining, 49ers and Rams. Those two wins at home (and the results I outlined above from this weekend’s games) would give them the NFC West Title and a home playoff game.

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