Ranking Cam Newton's 10 Best Moments as a Carolina Panther

Tyler Horner@BR_TylerHornerCorrespondent IIMay 13, 2014

Ranking Cam Newton's 10 Best Moments as a Carolina Panther

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Just three years ago, the Carolina Panthers drafted quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft.

    Since then, he's become the Associated Press NFL Rookie of the Year and a two-time Pro Bowl player while breaking too many league, rookie and franchise records to list.

    In 2013, he finally brought the Panthers to the playoffs, and although their stay was short-lived, this achievement was the culmination of three years full of exciting moments and progression from the young quarterback.

    Here you'll find the best of those moments in ascending order of memorability, which includes the stage in which the moment took place, the merit of the particular play on an individual level, and the moments contribution to a particular individual milestone or achievement. 

10. 49-Yard Touchdown Run vs. Buccaneers

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    This 49-yard touchdown run by Cam Newton was by far the longest of his rookie season—the next closest was 26 yardsand the third longest of his career.

    The run was also the shining moment of one of the best games of his rookie season, as he totaled four touchdowns on the day en route to a 48-16 victory over the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

9. First NFL Touchdown

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    Although it took place in a preseason game, this moment will stick with Newton forever. It was his first career NFL touchdown and an impressive one at that.

    Many Panthers fans will recall this moment vividly because it represented a change of direction for the franchise. The team was finally moving on from the post-Jake Delhomme dark ages and stepping into the Newton era, which was filled with hope and potential.

8. 72-Yard Touchdown Run vs. Atlanta

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    This 72-yard touchdown run came in Week 14 of the 2012 season. The score put the game out of reach of the Atlanta Falcons and marks the longest run of Newton's career.

    This game was particularly significant because of how well he played on the day, tallying three touchdowns and more than 400 total yards with no turnovers.

    While a playoff run was already improbable at this point for the Panthers, the game also marked the beginning of a strong 4-0 stretch to finish the season and carry momentum into the offseason.

7. First Playoff Touchdown

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    Cam Newton's first playoff touchdown was an impressive one, as he made a beautiful 31-yard pass to hit Steve Smith in stride as well as put the Panthers in the lead of the football game.

    Some Panthers fans will wipe this memory from their mind, as it came during a disappointing Divisional Round loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but Newton will likely hold the ball closeat least for now, as it represents his only playoff touchdown to this point.

6. First-Down Run vs. Patriots

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    While this run did not come in a playoff game or crunch time of an important regular-season game, it was just a flat-out stunning play by the athletic quarterback. He made professional defensive players look silly with dazzling jukes and cuts on his way to a third-down conversion.

    The Panthers later scored on this drive, taking a 17-10 lead over the New England Patriots in a game that Carolina would eventually win by just four points.

5. Game-Winning Touchdown vs. Dolphins

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    Just one week removed from the victory over New England, Cam Newton extending his streak of fourth-quarter comebacks with a last-minute touchdown over the Miami Dolphins. While the play was not particularly impressive on an individual level, his 80-yard march down the field in less than four minutes was.

    Newton and the Panthers had struggled to close games earlier in the season, so this play was significant. It represented a shift in mentality for a team that was developing a knack for finishing strong, regardless of its play for the previous three quarters.

4. Clinching NFC South Title

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    Greg Olsen explained Newton's game-winning touchdown pass best. In the third quarter, the Panthers quarterback shot a bullet to Olsen, who was standing just beyond the goal line. The touchdown pass put Carolina ahead, and the team never conceded the lead for the remainder of the game.

    The play was highly memorable because of its overall significance to the NFC playoff picture. With the win, the Panthers clinched the division title and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, which gave them a first-round bye.

3. First Regular-Season Touchdown

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    Most Panthers fans can recall Cam Newton's first touchdown pass in perfect detail. It was a play that occurred in slow motion for most and instilled a sense of relief for those who were still haunted by memories of Jimmy Clausen's tenure.

    It's difficult to put into words how much this moment likely meant to Newton, but you can tell from the post-play excitement that he and his teammates will always remember it.

2. Game-Winning Touchdown vs. Patriots

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    While Newton's run from earlier was a more individually impressive play, this game-winning touchdown pass was one of the brightest moments of Carolina's season.

    The Panthers were on the brink of losing at the hands of the Patriots, and a loss would have ended their six-game winning streak. However, Newton marched the team 83 yards while consuming nearly six minutes off the clock to put the game just out of reach of Tom Brady and the Patriots.

    The victory was particularly satisfying for Panthers fans who had yearned for revenge since the last-second loss to New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

1. Game-Winning Touchdown vs. Saints

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    This game-winning touchdown over the New Orleans Saints came in what is likely the most satisfying victory of Cam Newton's career in Carolina. While it was only a 14-yard pass, the ball seemed to hang in the air long enough for all of the last-second losses from previous seasons to flash before the eyes of Panthers fans.

    When the ball landed safely in the arms of receiver Domenik Hixon, the fans in the stadium erupted.

    The game seemed destined to end in New Orleans' favor when the Panthers gave the Saints the ball back with just 1:55 remaining in the game, but a three-and-out gave Newton the opportunity to drive his team down the field with just 55 second remaining. He did just that, moving the ball 65 yards while consuming just 32 second from the game clock.

    The victory clinched the Panthers' first playoff berth in five years and marks the best, and most clutch, moment of Newton's career to this point.