Cam Newton learned a valuable lesson Sunday. At least, he should have.
Superman doesn’t have to have superpowers, or super results, for the Carolina Panthers to win football games.
Newton threw just 23 passes in Carolina’s 21-13 win over the Washington Redskins on the road. He completed just 13 for 201 yards and one touchdown.
But Sunday wasn’t about what Newton did. The Panthers won their second game of the year, in part because of what Newton didn’t do. Newton didn’t throw an interception or fumble the football.
Sunday’s Week 9 game marked the fourth time this season Newton has gone without an interception. He’s thrown eight in the other four games. It was the second time Newton’s gone without a fumble. He’d coughed up the ball eight times prior to Sunday.
It’s was the first time all year, Newton’s stayed completely clean. Zero interceptions. Zero fumbles. Speaking of clean, he wasn’t even sacked on Sunday.
The Panthers have a history of doing well when Newton limits (or, to be more accurate, eliminates) mistakes.
Since Newton arrived in Charlotte and jumped under center for the Panthers, Carolina’s won eight games. In seven of those games, Newton didn’t turn the ball over. In every game Newton’s stayed turnover free, Carolina’s won the game.
The league, the Carolina fanbase and the media have all been conditioned to think about Newton as the guy who rewrote the NFL record book for rookie quarterbacks in 2011. He threw for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns. He ran for 706 yards and 14 more touchdowns. Newton was an offensive juggernaut.
But Carolina doesn’t win every time he puts on an offensive, all-world performance. In fact, the five times Newton has gone for more than 300 yards passing in a game in his career, the Panthers have lost.
Carolina wins game when Newton stays within himself, when he takes what the defense gives him. The Panthers win when Newton leads this team by setting the example of ball security.
Newton still has the attributes and the upside to be that all-world quarterback, or should I say an All-Pro. He still has breakaway speed and game-changing plays that should be a normal highlight-reel occurrence.
But right now with a 2-6 record and so many things going wrong for the Panthers, this team doesn’t need Newton to play like he’s pushing for a highlight reel. What the Panthers need is more mistake-free football. What Newton needs is more mistake-free football.
Superman needs to play like Clark Kent, thinking, calculating, persistent—mistake free. After a few more weeks of performances like Week 9, maybe Superman can come back.