Cam Newton has been through a lot in his eight-year career with the Carolina Panthers; he’s had his ups and downs, but I think most Panthers fans would agree he’s made being a Panthers fan much more bearable than in the past – and after watching him throw for the first time since shoulder surgery last week at mandatory minicamp, he’s been on my mind.
Newton’s been one of the rare players in the league whose raw stats never give him the respect he deserves. Beyond the bland pass protection and limited receiving corps he’s had for most of his career, Newton’s deep passing accuracy, play under pressure, and rushing ability have all elevated and made the Panthers a better team. The quarterback holds a laundry list of both NFL and franchise records, yet is somehow battling for his starting job in the minds of many fans – with that said, there’s often a question that comes to mind, at least personally:
What has been the greatest single game performance of Cam Newton’s career?
For me, this includes games such as against the Packers or Saints in 2015 – just pick a game from that season – or the Dolphins in 2017, and I’m sure you’ll have some nominations for me on Twitter – ultimately, I think Newton’s best overall performance came in the 2017 Wild Card Round against the division rival New Orleans Saints.
While that ended in a 31-26 defeat, Newton played the game of his life. From a statistical performance, he went 24-of-40 for 349 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 105.1 passer rating while also adding 37 yards on the ground.
The raw stats don’t give Newton nearly as much credit as he deserves – the fact that the Panthers lost doesn’t change what Newton did.
Down two scores in the fourth quarter, Newton not only got the ball back down one score, but put the Panthers in a good position to steal a playoff win from Drew Brees and company after injuries decimated his pass catchers – and he nearly pulled it off. Unfortunately, that did not go as planned, but Newton still put up a memorable performance – we’re going to take a moment to look at some of my favorite plays from that game.
For instance, the above screenshot of a first quarter toss on third-and-short to Greg Olsen makes it look like Olsen had to go out of his way to make this catch – but things are not always as they seem. In reality, Newton’s placement was on the money, throwing this to a spot where only Olsen could make a play without any interference.
Let’s take a look below at another angle of the play:
This is not an easy throw for Newton to make. The position of the two defensive backs on the left side of the field give the quarterback a tiny crease to throw into – the velocity and precision, however, make this third down conversion look incredibly easy.
Unfortunately, on this second quarter play, Olsen and Newton could not connect for what should have been a touchdown.
Newton is actually given good protection on this play, in which he makes a tight window toss to Olsen.
Again, let me reiterate — a tight window:
The pass falls incomplete, but upon closer inspection, this was all on the Pro Bowl tight end.
The throw from Newton is sensational, and I don’t think he could’ve made the placement any better. For as good of a tight end as Olsen is when healthy, he has to make this play, especially since it would’ve been a touchdown if he had hauled it in.
The Panthers would settle for a field goal.
Up Next: Something Special