That play was especially important because the Panthers would put up a touchdown on the same drive.
Facing third-and-4 on the New England 15, Newton’s target this time is Greg Olsen.
Unlike his last drop back on third down, this scenario was much easier for Newton to handle. The Panthers’ offensive line was able to give him a clean pocket and Olsen was able to run a good route outside to give his quarterback an open look.
It seemed no matter how many third downs the Panthers faced, Newton would always deliver and put them one step ahead of the Patriots. In this game, the Panthers were 8-of-11 on third downs for a conversion rate of 72.7%.
In other words, Newton put the team on his back.
The Patriots offense would again score 10 unanswered points to take their first lead of the game, 20-17, with six and a half minutes remaining in regulation. This gave Cam Newton plenty of time to orchestrate a 83-yard game winning scoring drive.
Once more, Newton was facing a third down, this time needing six yards to move the chains.
Newton finds himself in another predicament as he’s surrounded by three Patriot defenders: Chandler Jones (yellow circle), Chris Jones (purple circle), and Rob Ninkovich (red circle).
The pocket condenses, but Newton’s poise and patience allow a gap to open up to his right…
…which he takes full advantage of.
Newton is able to turn another would-be sack into a 15-yard run for the first down. The Panthers are able to drive an additional 44 yards before a false start on Carolina forced them into a first-and-15 with just over a minute left.
On the following second down. that’s where Newton was able to go to work and give the Panthers the lead for good.
Ted Ginn is the hero on this particular play, and it’s on a short curl route.
But the ball has to be placed at a certain angle for Ginn to get more than just a simple 10-yard gain, and Newton is able to lead Ginn back to him so he has a clear shot at that.
The placement, as noted, allows Ginn to cut cleanly and race past everybody for the game-winning score, sending Bank of America Stadium into an absolute frenzy. The defense would hold in a controversial ending (pass interference, what pass interference?), but it was Newton’s heroics that deserved the attention.
From this point forward, my interest in Newton spiked. This win in particular was massive because it was Carolina’s sixth in a row, sending them to 7-3 and keeping them in the NFC South race at a time where the opposing Saints were 8-2. This was where Carolina’s bright signal caller established himself as arguably the league’s most enticing young quarterback and Carolina cemented themselves as a threat to the rest of the NFC.
At the time, I remember wanting the Panthers to win this game so that Newton could get more respect for his performance – and sure enough, they did. Against the Patriots of all teams, he carved up Bill Belichick’s defense despite numerous occasions where his back was to the wall and never took his foot off the accelerator.
This was who Cam Newton was at full health.
Regardless of how many postseason appearances come in the future for the Panthers, it won’t be the same without Newton. He was the reason you could at least consider a postseason birth from the Panthers every season – or at the very least heavy competition to do so. This is a quarterback and a person that has given so much to the city of Charlotte both on and off the field and was an absolute joy to watch whenever he dropped back to pass – or took off to run.
Previous goodbyes to Panthers legends were difficult to do, but this one, above all, is easily the toughest. Farewell, Super Cam – may your cape fly forever.