The preamble and what happened in the first three quarters on Monday Night are useless. Let’s just skip to the ending. There were two incontrovertible facts about Tom Brady and Cam Newton in late-game situations.
Brady gets all the calls on game-winning drives and Newton can’t finish. Reality got roughed up on Monday night like it owed Suge Knight money.
On the final play of regulation, Brady nearly updated his LinkedIn profile with the 39th game-winning drive of his career and used Luke Kuelchy’s Panthers defense as a reference. Instead the Man of Steelo finally cracked a code, which we analyzed in Brown Men Throwin’ four weeks ago that has flummoxed him since his national championship at Auburn.
There’s also the matter of Newton’s fourth quarter narcolepsy. Icons create iconic moments. While Tim Tebow was extinguishing fourth quarter fires he helped set, rookie Cam was scrambling in circles trying to find the exit. Two years later, he still hasn’t uncovered a cure for his fourth quarter woes. Through his first two seasons, his fourth quarter QBR when trailing was 35th among 45 quarterbacks and Newton is now 2-17 in game-winning opportunities.
Newton’s penchant for falling asleep at the wheel in late-game situations is not a media concoction, either. Three years into his career, Newton’s only led two fourth quarter comebacks and game winning drives. Robert Griffin III has led twice as many with a playpen defense.
Watching Bills rookie E.J. Manuel steal his shine and finish a game-winning drive after Newton failed to squeeze the ball into the end zone in the waning seconds of their Week 2 matchup had to leave him queasier than witnessing Rick Ross Harlem Shaking in a sleeveless tank.
Like an Iron Mike tat, Newton’s emotions have always been printed on his face. Before rattling off six straight wins, Newton the aspiring icon constantly looked grumpier than Kanye West, aspiring fashion icon, on diaper duty.
Most of his struggles could be whittled down to his fourth quarter stench. When the fourth quarter rolled around, Newton sprayed instead of dabbing on some of Ron Burgundy’s infamous “Sex Panther” by Odion cologne and stunk up the joint. Zero percent of the time, Newton was successful all the time on game-winning drives.
Even during the Panthers current five-game winning streak entering Monday night, Newton has been in neutral while Kuelchy and the defense kicked it up a notch to allow their offense a path to victory clear of land mines.
The formidability of San Francisco defense gave him a built-in excuse last week. The Niners are not to be trifled with, therefore, Newton played it safe in the redzone. His 19.3 QBR that night was the lowest total of his career in a win and the Panthers won a 10-9 thriller that played out more like an MLS penalty kick shootout than a tilt between NFC contenders.
Officially he was credited with the third game-winning drive of his career, but unofficially that rings falser than cubic zirconia.
The most recent “game-winning” drive in his career was a game in which they took the lead with 12:40 remaining in the fourth against on Monday Night Football in Week 12 last year. The difference is that Nick Foles never mounted a challenge to get the Eagles back into scoring position. His first game-winner was a touchdown pass to Greg Olsen that left the Jacksonville Jaguars and Blaine Gabbert with enough time to gain possession, go three-and-out, punt and regain possession.
To beat Brady and the Pats, you have to score touchdowns when they matter most. On Monday, Newton took the lead in making the Panthers red zone opportunities count.
The pressure furnace was on full blast after the Saints’ late-surge led them past the Niners on Sunday afternoon to retain their one-game lead over Carolina in the NFC South.
The final drive is where Newton would have normally stalled the offense or kicked a field goal. However, this is a new day in Carolina.
"I hear the statistics of all the other guys having game-winning drives; now Cam has his game-winning drive against a worthy opponent,'' Steve Smith said while feeling upbeat after getting the best of Pats cornerback Aqib Talib. "Watching that young man grow, that 24-year-old Cam Newton just chipping away, and a little bit of his greatness is starting to shine through."
A 13-play, 63 yard, 5:33 touchdown drive was the end of Newton’s night against New England, but if he’s turned the corner, that should only be the beginning of his transformation into a championship-winning, fourth quarter comeback don.