Bryan Strickland Senior Writer
Charlotte, NC – Statistically speaking, quarterback Cam Newton had the quietest game of his nearly flawless five-game stretch of football Sunday afternoon in San Diego.
It speaks volumes that the Panthers still rolled to a 31-7 victory.
“I could not have done it without my offense, and they could not have done it without me,” Newton said. “There are a lot of guys going unnoticed behind the scenes that make this work.
“It is not a one-man team. I think that’s what we have learned more as the season has progressed.”
Newton had been in full Superman mode in the four games prior to Sunday, moving faster than a speeding pass rusher and leaping would-be tacklers in a single bound to the tune of an average of more than 340 yards of total offense per game.
Against the Chargers, he totaled just 238 yards but was super nonetheless, in more subtle ways. He didn’t have any head-turning runs that Peyton Manning could only dream of, but he showed that his head is in the game in the same way that Manning has for countless seasons now.
“He is getting the ball out. He is hitting all of his targets. He is looking downfield,” running back DeAngelo Williams said. “He is being the quarterback that we know he is capable of being.”
Williams was the beneficiary of Newton’s maturing, take-what-they-give-you approach. For the second consecutive week, Newton and Williams hooked up on a long touchdown that started out as a smart decision, in this case a designed dump-off behind the line of scrimmage that Williams and his blockers turned into a 45-yard touchdown.
“He has really improved, especially with checking it down to the second read or dumping it off to the backs, or with getting the ball out of harm’s way and throwing it out of bounds,” offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. “Those are the things that quarterbacks can do to keep drives alive.
“We’ve been good at creating big plays and getting things down the field. He’s doing a good job of stringing those together with the checkdowns and the short passing game.”
Newton has thrown 152 consecutive passes without an interception, a franchise record. Again Sunday, as has been the case almost without fail during the streak, Newton didn’t even come close to throwing a pick. When the Chargers pass rush hemmed him up better than some other recent opponents have, Newton didn’t hesitate to throw the ball away when that was the best course of action.
Newton is doing what every coach calls for his players to do week after week but usually with mixed results: He is learning from his mistakes.
“There were a lot of plays that could have gone 50/50 and a lot of things we wish we could have done better,” Newton said of the team’s challenging season. “We’ve been through a lot this season to say the least. To grow from it is the only thing we can do, and that’s what we have been doing.”
After Newton rewrote the NFL record books for rookie quarterbacks last season, many observers painted a picture of it simply being a matter of time before his team caught up with him and the Panthers’ win-loss record matched his record of achievement.
It is a matter of time, but Newton himself has needed time just like the young team that surrounds and supports him.
“As far as personnel, there is no difference. I just think our mindset and maturity have come along,” Newton said. “I’ve learned a lot and I think there is still more that I can learn from and get better at.
“I know this is not the first time nor will it be the last time that I will be faced with adversity and I just have to learn from it. As a leader you are faced with a lot of different things and that is one thing I have learned, especially in this league where every single facet is critiqued on the field and off the field. It has been a challenge for me, but I have been learning from a lot of different people how to become a complete leader.”