The Carolina Panthers remain the only undefeated team in the NFL after their wild shootout in New Orleans, but it once again came to Cam Newton with his back to the wall and he delivered.
It’s no longer a matter of Newton not having the numbers.He threw five touchdown passes against the Saints, the second time in three weeks. After throwing eight interceptions and posting a 78.1 passer rating through the first seven games of the season, which made everyone make those comparisons to Colin Kaepernick, a rival in Kaepernick’s own mind because he was picked ahead of him in the draft, things have changed.
Newton is throwing 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions through the last five games with a passer rating of 113.2. The one time he didn’t throw a touchdown this season was in the 33-14 win against the Dallas Cowboys. But who needs that when the team scores two touchdowns off of interceptions, and Newton scores his 7th rushing touchdown of the season?
He ran for 49 yards in the win against the Saints, but none for a touchdown. Four of his five touchdowns were for 12-to-15 yards, but his big one to Ted Ginn Jr. was for 45 yards, and showed Newton’s ability to make a huge play out of nothing with his big body and incredible arm strength. And even though Mark Ingram ran for a touchdown that gave the 38-34 lead to the Saints with 5:21 left, it never felt as if the Panthers weren’t going to score. They’ve been in this situation before this season. It’s also the Saints defense we’re talking about.
So while the Panthers clinch the NFC South and move closer towards home field advantage throughout the playoffs, there’s no other team with even one loss. All the teams that started 6-0 or better and lost, dropped two in a row. The Packers have lost four overall, but the Broncos, Cardinals and Bengals are all on two losses. And remember the Falcons? After a 5-0 start, they’re 6-6, losing five in a row, and looking like they’re about to implode with a lot of angry people pointing it at all directions.
And then there’s the New England Patriots, who have been playing bad for about a month, and it’s finally caught up to them. Their first loss, on the road in Denver, made sense. A tough place, a great defense, although it came with the Patriots dropping the lead. But at home? To the Eagles? A team with a head coach who can feel the fans and maybe the owner too breathing down his neck? That came out of nowhere, and made them lose their lead in the AFC.