New­ton can back up ‘best foot­ball’ com­ments

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Panthers At Buccaneers - BY BREN­DAN MARKS [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com Bren­dan Marks: 704-358-5889, @bren­dan­r­marks

Each week the Carolina Pan­thers play in 2018, the Ob­server will choose a po­ten­tial gamechanger — the player most likely to make a huge im­pact on the game. This week’s choice:

Quar­ter­back Cam New­ton The sound­bite: Go on, play back the sound­bite. You know you want to.

“Hon­estly, I feel like I’m play­ing the best foot­ball of my ca­reer,” Carolina Pan­thers quar­ter­back Cam New­ton said Wed­nes­day. “Straight up. I just feel in con­trol. There’s no ques­tion marks. My as­sured­ness of ev­ery sin­gle play, I know ex­actly what I’m sup­posed to do.”

While New­ton’s crit­ics will al­ways find rea­son to dig at the for­merMVP, there’s not much they can do in the way of ar­gu­ing his num­bers.

Num­bers that, to be frank, val­i­date his claim.

The statis­tics: The high­lights: New­ton has thrown 22 touch­downs against just seven in­ter­cep­tions so far this season, and he’s done so by com­plet­ing a ca­reer-high 69.6 per­cent of his passes. And in re­cent weeks, he’s been even more im­pres­sive. New­ton has thrown for mul­ti­ple touch­downs in 10 straight games now, and he’s also recorded a passer rat­ing over 100 each of the team’s past six games.

At this rate, New­ton is on pace to set Pan­thers fran­chise records in com­ple­tion per­cent­age, pass­ing touch­downs, passer rat­ing, and fewest in­ter­cep­tions.

So yeah, “best foot­ball of my ca­reer” is prob­a­bly the short­est way to ex­press all that.

More than just num­bers: But more than just his play is the con­fi­dence with which New­ton is play­ing. Even as the Pan­thers have hob­bled through a three­game los­ing streak, New­ton’s spirit hasn’t wa­vered, some­thing even his coaches have taken no­tice of.

“I think when you’re a quar­ter­back and you say some­thing like that,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Norv Turner said Thurs­day, “you feel like you’re see­ing things, you have a good han­dle on what’s hap­pen­ing, you trust the guys you’re play­ing with, and you’re play­ing with con­fi­dence.” Chance for re­peat suc­cess: New­ton’s play has cer­tainly been bol­stered by Turner’s more ef­fi­cient of­fense this season, as well as be­ing sur­rounded by weapons such as Chris­tian Mc­Caf­frey and DJ Moore, but there’s no deny­ing that New­ton him­self is play­ing with more poise and un­der­stand­ing than he has in years.

Now is the time that play starts trans­lat­ing into vic­to­ries.

For as good as New­ton has been re­cently, his most re­cent game with­out a turnover came four weeks ago against the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers — also Carolina’s most re­cent vic­tory. But now with a sec­ond matchup against the Bucs, New­ton has an op­por­tu­nity to again reap the re­wards of his ca­reer-best stretch.

What New­ton said: “I was re­warded with wins (when I played well in the past), and just the af­fir­ma­tion of know­ing, boom, we’re win­ning,” New­ton said. “Now it’s tougher that we’re not win­ning, but at the same time, it’s my job as a quar­ter­back to know. Like the self­ishme would’ve been like, ‘Oh I’m good, we ain’t los­ing be­cause of me,’ but that’s not where I am right now in my ca­reer.” Rea­sons for op­ti­mism: Aside from the fa­mil­iar­ity of hav­ing played Tampa so re­cently, there are two other fac­tors work­ing in New­ton’s fa­vor. The first is the team’s of­fen­sive mo­men­tum. Even in a loss to Seat­tle last week, the Pan­thers ac­crued a season-high 476 to­tal yards. Do­ing so with­out re­ceiver Devin Funchess, who missed the game with a back in­jury, proves New­ton’s ef­fi­ciency and suc­cess don’t hinge on any one player.

Sec­ond is the ac­tual de­fen­sive play of the Bucs. That, to be as blunt as New­ton, isn’t ex­actly the NFL’s best.

Tampa cur­rently al­lows the sixth-most pass­ing yards per game (274.3), as well as the sec­ond-most points per game (30.7). Add on that the Bucs are with­out sev­eral starters and key con­trib­u­tors in the sec­ondary be­cause of in­juries, puts New­ton in position for suc­cess ... again.

The first time th­ese teams played this season, New­ton fin­ished an ef­fi­cient 19-for-25 for 247 yards and two touch­downs. What coach Ron Rivera said: “He’s just been very pro­duc­tive but very con­sis­tent in his play, and that’s prob­a­bly been the big­gest thing right now. When the quar­ter­back plays that con­sis­tent, you should win more games.”

JEFF SINER [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Carolina Pan­thers quar­ter­back Cam New­ton rushes car­ries a foot­ball to a fan Nov. 4.

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