Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton likes to think of himself as the Man of Steel, as he playfully opens the invisible shirt over his jersey on each scoring play to reveal the Superman "S" on his chest.
With five interceptions so far in this young 2012 season, maybe we should change the spelling of his nickname to the Man of Steal.
The Panthers lost their Thursday Night Football tilt with the New York Giants, 36-7, and Newton tossed three interceptions and not one touchdown. He did cross the goal line on his feet as he rushed six times for six yards, but with his interception total growing to five on the season, it looks as if his propensity to throw to the opposite team hasn't changed with a year of growth and a full offseason of work under his belt.
Newton threw his fifth interception last season in Week 4, meaning the rookie who broke 14 NFL first-year quarterback records in 2011 might set a new personal mark for picks. Newton threw 17 last year.
Newton's first interception can almost be forgiven, if you can get past the fact that his toss to Brandon LaFell was way behind the receiver. LaFell got his hand on it, but the ball popped into the air and into the hands of cornerback Jayron Hosley.
That was the most excusable of Newton's three miscues.
Giants linebacker Michael Boley was the beneficiary of Newton's second interception, and this offering from Newton was by far the most grotesque.
Newton was trying to force the football to his favorite target of the night, tight end Greg Olsen. The problem was that Olsen was in tight coverage, and the Giants had help close by. Boley was one of the two players close enough to grab the errant throw from Newton.
The final pick from Newton was in the end zone, as the Man of Steal was looking again for LaFell.
Newton didn't do a great job of looking the defense away from his intended end-zone target. And since the line of scrimmage was the 8-yard line, Newton couldn't put much air under the pass.
Safety Stevie Brown easily jumped the route and grabbed Newton's throw. Brown returned the ball to the 43-yard line, ending any possible threat—as remote as it might have been—of a Carolina comeback.
Newton was 16-of-30 on the night for 242 yards. He did not throw a touchdown pass and was picked off—as you know—three times. He also was sacked twice and couldn't get much going with his feet, either.
A 53.3 percent completion rate was Newton's third-worst performance on his career. His quarterback rating of 40.6 was far and away his worst since entering the league.
No one who has ever seen Newton—whether it be live or on TV—on a football field will ever suggest that he doesn't have the talent to be special. He's one of the most gifted athletes in the NFL.
Newton's decision-making skills on the field, though...now therein lies the problem.
This isn't one of those rants that claims Newton is going to suffer a sophomore slump. That's not what we're seeing here. We're not looking at a passer who's suffering from the bad luck of a mystical second-season curse.
What we're seeing is a quarterback who's making terrible decisions with the football right now. And he made those same decisions last season, too.
When do we get to see the fruits of all Newton's hard work in the offseason? When does Newton show that his 17-interception season of 2011 was because the lockout kept him from Carolina's coaching staff and from Carolina's team facility? When do we get to see Newton’s growth as a second-year quarterback?
Because right now, all we're seeing is Newton's kryptonite—the interception.
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