Despite having been eliminated from the playoffs, the Carolina Panthers are playing their best football of the season thanks in large part to two trends involving their quarterback.
The disappointing 5-9 Panthers have won three of their last four contests, including outscoring the Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers by a combined 61-27 in their last two games.
So what's driving Carolina's late-season success?
The answer can be broken down into two parts, and they both center around quarterback Cam Newton:
1. Interception-free football.
2. Cam's rushing touchdowns.
When Cam Newton avoids throwing interceptions, the Panthers tend to win. The same holds true for games in which Newton rushes for a touchdown.
If Cam can continue to avoid throwing picks while finding the end zone with his feet, the Panthers' surge to close out 2012 may very well continue.
No Interceptions = No Problems
There is one common denominator that spans all five of the Panthers' victories this season, which is this:
Cam Newton has not thrown an interception in any of Carolina's five wins.
While this type of statistic is rather intuitive, it is also pretty revealing that Carolina has not won a game this year when Newton has thrown a pick. In the Panthers' five wins this year Cam has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 8-to-0.
Cam finishing a game interception-free is not a guarantee the Panthers will win, however.
On the year Carolina has lost three games in which Newton has not thrown a pick, but the team's 5-3 record in interception-free games is impressive nonetheless.
Conversely, the Panthers are 0-5 this season when Cam Newton throws at least one interception.
If the Panthers want to close out their season with two more victories it will likely require Cam to take care of the ball and avoid throwing costly interceptions.
Rushing on to Victory
Another clear trend that has emerged in Panther victories this season has to do with Cam Newton's ability to use his legs as a weapon.
On the year Cam has rushed for a touchdown in six different games. In the Panthers' five wins in 2012, Newton has rushed for a touchdown in four of them.
On the other hand, Newton has rushed for just two touchdowns in Carolina's nine losses.
Overall the 2012 Panthers are 4-2 when Cam Newton rushes for a touchdown, and one of these losses includes the Week 4 last-minute collapse against the Atlanta Falcons after a series of late defensive blunders cost Carolina the game.
The recipe for the Panthers closing out the season with two more victories is clear - Cam throws no picks while also rushing for a touchdown.
With a Week 16 home matchup coming up this weekend against a floundering Oakland Raiders team that has lost six of their last seven games, don't be too surprised if Cam and company reel off another win as Carolina's late-season surge continues.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Panthers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check out these articles: