Superman Cam Newton Building MVP Resume, Leading Undefeated Panthers
panthers bleacher report
Cam Newton’s numbers aren’t pretty, and that isn’t likely to change dramatically between now and the end of the 2015 NFL season. But Newtonis the Carolina Panthers. He’s the team’s blood and sweat, and the Panthers are 5-0 after defeating the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks on the road.Newton is the heart and soul of a Carolina team that is a prime Super Bowl contender despite a no-name receiving corps that is missing top target Kelvin Benjamin, despite an inexperienced offensive line, despite a mediocre start from running back Jonathan Stewart and despite a shorthanded defense that saw its points allowed total rise in each of the first four weeks of the 2015 campaign.As a result, Newton has to be considered a fringe MVP contender as we approach November.Where would the 5-0 Panthers be if not for Newton, who struggled in the first half Sunday in Seattle before leading his team back from a 20-7 second-half deficit in order to beat the best home team in football on its own turf’Few of us watching felt Carolina stood much of a chance after Newton had a third-quarter pass deflected and intercepted, leading directly to a 50-yard field goal that extended Seattle’s lead to 13 points. After all, the Seahawks had won 24 of their last 26 games at home and hadn’t lost a home game after leading by 13 or more points in the second half since 2004.But from that point forward, Superman had his cape on.Newton led the Panthers to touchdowns on three of their final five drives of the game, completing 15 of 20 passes for 218 yards in a quarter and a half, capped by a 6-for-6, 89-yard performance on the game-winning drive.His clutch game-winning touchdown strikea perfectly-thrown pass to Greg Olsen over top of the world’s best secondarycame as the Panthers were rushing to get a play off at the Seattle 26-yard line with only half a minute left, completing what was Carolina’s fourth 80-yard touchdown drive of the day.Performances like those remind us that numbers are sometimes overrated. Take Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network’s word for it:Newton entered Sunday’s action with the league’s second-lowest qualifying completion percentage and a far-from-spectacular passer rating of just 88.5. But his completion percentage didn’t change Sunday and his rating actually dropped five points.Yet Newton is being rightly praised because he was goodnay, greatwhen he needed to be, and he’s the primary reason why Carolina won what is roundly considered to be a statement game Sunday. He made statements to the media Wednesday (via Jonathan Jones of The Charlotte Observer), and given the nature of those remarks, it’s no surprise he showed up when Carolina desperately needed him:”Theyre a pretty good team.Theyve been extremely successful in the postseason these past couple of years, but yet those are old statistics. Im eager to face them on Sunday. The stats say one thing, but those are old things that I refuse to dwell on.”And while this game was particularly special, this isn’t the first time this season the 2011 No. 1 overall pick has been a football superhero.Whether he’s using his legs, his arm or both, Newton just gets it done when his team needs him.Leading the Jaguars by eight in the third quarter of the season opener, Newton avoided disaster by dodging several near-sacks on a 3rd-and-8 from his own 21-yard line before delivering a 24-yard first-down strike toJerricho Cotchery.Week 2 against the Texans, he broke a 10-10 game open with an incredible 19-yard run late in the third quarter, scrambling through would-be sacks before leaping into the Houston secondary. That would lead to the go-ahead touchdown, and Newton would soon put the icing on the cake with an impeccable 36-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Philly Brown.Against the Saints the following week, the difference for Carolina was Newton’s 13-yard, third-down touchdown run in the fourth quarter.Week 4 in Tampa he had a 12-yard third-down scramble to essentially put the Buccaneers away in the fourth quarter.The Panthers are averaging 27.0 points per game, and 16.2 of those points have come in the second halves of their five games. They’ve trailed early three times out of five but have managed to win them all.That’s not just on Newton, but considering his numbers in crunch time and the fact he hasn’t been particularly well supported, it’s enough to include him in the MVP conversation.I mean, look at names he’s working with and relying on this season. Philly Brown’Jerricho Cotchery’ Sure, he’s got veteran tight end Greg Olsen, but with Benjamin on injured reserve and the line reworked, Newton is doing a lot of this on his own.His left tackle, Michael Oher, has been a mess again this season after not cutting it in Baltimore and Tennessee in 2013 and 2014, respectively. No surprise there. Right tackleMike Remmers is on his sixth team in four years and 23-year-old left guardAndrew Norwell went undrafted in 2014.Stewart was a key contributor last year, but he entered Week 6 with the seventh-lowest yards-per-attempt average in football among 29 backs with at least 50 carries. And that average only went up from 3.73 to 3.77 on Sunday.Throw in the fact they’ve been without key defensive players Charles Johnson and Luke Kuechly and it’s amazing the Panthers are one win away from their first 6-0 start in franchise history.A lot of folksyours truly includedraised an eyebrow or two in the offseason when Carolinasigned Newton to a jaw-dropping new contract that could pay him $103.8 million over five years and guaranteed him $31 million for 2015 alone.It’s early, but right now Newton is an MVP-caliber quarterback, which means he just might be worth every penny. Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.
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