While Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson have been getting attention for their great rookie seasons, the guy who set the NFL on fire with his record-breaking rookie season last year has been quietly playing pretty well himself.
Carolina's Cam Newton has shaken off an early season slump to reemerge as one of the most dangerous players in the league, and he was very sharp in a 30-20 win against an Atlanta team with the best record in the NFC.
In the Panthers' three games previous to Sunday, Newton had six touchdowns and no interceptions. He also had 170 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
In the first half against the Falcons, and on a long touchdown run early in the third quarter, Newton looked just like he did most of last season. It came against a secondary without safety William Moore — an injury that could be significant for Atlanta down the stretch — but regardless, it was another encouraging performance by Newton.
Newton helped lead Carolina to a 16-0 lead at halftime, including a nice 25-yard pass to Greg Olsen. Newton scored on his own early in the third quarter.
Newton faked a handoff to DeAngelo Williams and then ran through a big hole on the left side. Newton has game-breaking speed most quarterbacks only dream of, and he turned it on in the open field. He got behind a block, weaved his way through and then finished the 72-yard touchdown run with a flourish, somersaulting into the end zone.
Newton finished 23-of-35 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and added 116 rushing yards.
If Newton keeps playing like he did Sunday, the Panthers should feel pretty good about their franchise quarterback going into the offseason.
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