Cam Newton's playful antics in pregame warmups didn't cause him to fumble on third-and-2 late in the game, and doing the Superman celebration after his touchdown against Atlanta wasn't the reason he was sacked on the last play of a heartbreaking loss.
But put together, those things won't help calm down the firestorm about the Carolina quarterback's maturity, especially when contrasted with Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, as he added to his "Matty Ice" reputation with a miraculous drive for the Falcons' 30-28 win.
Ryan was backed up at his own 1-yard line with less than a minute to go and the Falcons trailing by a point. He hit a 59-yard pass to Roddy White to put the Falcons in field-goal position. After an incompletion, Ryan threw a pass that drew a pass-interference call on Carolina, then completed passes to Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas to put Matt Bryant in position to kick a 40-yard game-winner.
Ryan never flinched in a pressure position. As the Falcons improved to 4-0, it was the kind of moment that helped Ryan's case as a potential championship-caliber quarterback -- though when January comes around he'll have to answer the critics that point to his postseason failures.
But Sunday's hero wouldn't have had a chance to shine if it weren't for Newton's biggest mistake, which came at the tail end of an otherwise fantastic performance that will be mostly forgotten.
Newton was criticized by teammate Steve Smith for his sideline demeanor late in a Week 3 loss to the Giants and later mocked for doing his Superman touchdown celebration in the blowout loss. In general, he has had his maturity and mental makeup questioned.
Then he came out in pregame warmups and in a seemingly defiant manner he hammed it up with teammates, arms out like an airplane as he ran around them, and then gave booty bumps to the Panthers coming out of the locker room.
Then, with the Panthers trailing 24-14, Newton scored on a run and put a little something into the celebration, giving a little dance before doing his normal Superman celebration with some gusto.
And Newton's playful nature probably would have been lauded after the game, in which he went 15 of 24 for 215 yards and two touchdowns, with 86 yards rushing and a touchdown. But instead of sealing an upset win, he made a mistake that gave the Falcons life.
On a third-and-2 with less than two minutes remaining, Newton had a first down on a run, but was hit and fumbled backwards. The Panthers recovered, but it was behind the first-down marker and they had to punt.
Newton wasn't the free safety who was lost in coverage on White's 59-yard catch that flipped the game in Atlanta's favor, and the Panthers probably would have gotten blown out had their quarterback not played as well as he did, but Newton will get plenty of blame nonetheless. He's sure to hear even more skepticism about his maturity and attitude.
That's the life of a NFL quarterback.
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