After an ugly divorce less than two years ago, Cam Newton returned to the team and city that made him a man.
On Sunday, Nov. 14, in limited snaps mainly in goal line situations, Newton scored a passing and rushing touchdown. After his two-yard touchdown run, he took off his helmet and yelled to the crowd in Arizona, “I’m Baaaack.”
No this wasn’t the same as when Michael Jordan proclaimed he was back in 1995, after a two-year hiatus from the NBA. And instead of playing pro baseball, Cam was heavy into “Daddy Duties,” as he describes it.
But considering how poorly things ended for Newton in Carolina in 2019-20, it had to feel good to yell that out as he scored for the franchise he built and carried for nine seasons. Then made a short tour around State Farm Stadium as Cardinals fans gave him daps and cheers of encouragement.
Newton Looked Good In Limited Snaps, But How Will He Fare As The Starter?
Newton is scheduled to make his first start in a Panthers uniform since 2019 on Sunday, Nov. 21. It’s hard to forget how bad Newton looked when we last saw him play in New England in 2020.
Even before his uneventful year in New England, where he was merely an undermanned bridge to first-round pick Mac Jones, Cam had been showing some chinks in the armor. He often looked like a punch drunk boxer, struggling to regain the precision and superior instincts and athleticism of his peak.
But it wasn’t all his fault either. The Patriots had more COVID-19 opt-outs than any other team in the NFL. In season, he lost his top target in Julian Edelman to a knee injury and Newton didn’t stand a chance of succeeding in Foxborough.
All things taken into consideration, Newton still played as poorly as he ever has. At times, he straight stunk it up. Superman made 15 starts and had only eight touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. His 2,657 passing yards ranked at the bottom of the league for any QB who’d made at least 13 starts. Newton was still effective using his legs, rushing for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns, the second most in his career.
Newton’s Passing Ability Left A Lot To Be Desired In 2020
For the first three games of the 2020 season Newton looked pretty good, and then a positive COVID-19 test stalled all momentum he had accrued. Newton has always had a bit of a hitch in his release and he seems to push the football when he throws.
Shoulder surgery did nothing but make that release more elongated and extremely slow. His guiding of the football was also obviously lacking. In all, he was terrible as a passer.
But nothing in the Patriots’ complex offense was ever catered to his strengths, which are zone read, RPO (run pass option), designed QB runs and the short-to-intermediate passing game with heavy tight-end interaction.
He Has To Be Better Than We Last Witnessed And He Will Be
Newton is no dummy. The 32-year-old dual threat knows this is probably his last chance to play in the league. He relishes a chance to play in front of his home crowd, which he captivated for nine seasons with his charismatic bigger-than-life persona.
His touchdown “DAB” and “SUPERMAN” celebration were the stuff of legends. And his giving the football to a fan after a score was nothing short of amazing. The gesture endured him to the opposition’s fan base.
Perhaps the best plot twist to the 2021 season: Superman 2. https://t.co/lRaaVhR4xG
— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) November 15, 2021
The Panthers also possess a much better supporting cast than the Patriots did in 2020. All the pressure won’t be on Cam come Sunday with all-purpose running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receivers DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson and Torrance Marshall at his disposal.
He should flourish.
A Familiar Ally Turned Foe Will Be On The Opposite Sidelines
In his return to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, Newton will face his former head coach in Ron Rivera. Yup the guy who made him his first draft pick in 2011 and guided Newton for the entirety of his career in Carolina will bring his WFT down I-95 to I-77 for a little fisticuffs in the trenches.
Rivera was asked about facing Newton and if anybody knows how to defend Cam it’s the guy who supported him wholeheartedly throughout his career.
“I haven’t communicated with him, but good for him,” Rivers told reporters.” It’s an opportunity to play where he started.”
Should be another intriguing NFL storyline for Week 11. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. on FOX.