The Carolina Panthers clinched a Playoff Birth for the 1st time since the 2008 last week by defeating the New Orleans Saints 17-13. Quarterback Cam Newton has enjoyed a breakout season for panthers and will be making his first trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl this season. Before the season started back in September, all the talk was about the new wave of signal callers like: Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. It seemed like the former 2010 Heisman Trophy Winner and 2011 NFL Rookie of the Yr was being left out of the discussion.
The season started out very rocky for Carolina, they lost 3 out of 4 to begin the year. People began to wonder if this season was going to go down the tubes in Charlotte just like it did in for the last four non playoff seasons for the Panthers. At least 80% of Charlotte residents wanted Head Coach Ron Rivera fired. Something had to change and following a team meeting, something did happen. A team that seemed to falter was starting to come together. After the 1-3 start, Carolina reeled off eight straight victories. They got come from behind character building wins on the road against San Francisco (10-9), at home against New England (24-20) and on the road against Miami (20-16).
Cam Newton has really developed nicely as a passer this season. He’s posted a career highs in completion percentage: 62.8% and rating: 89.2.He’s thrown for 3,230 yards and 22 touchdowns. Newton can still hurt you on the ground when you gets out of the pocket and on the read option.He’s rushed for 513 yards and 6 touchdowns. In games against San Francisco, New England and Miami, the ball was in his hands in the closing minutes and seconds of the game. Each time he’s delivered the game winning drive to give his team the victory. Against the Patriots on Monday Night Football, he stayed cool and calm as he drove his team down for the game winning touchdown. When you beat Tom Brady on National Stage everybody is going to notice.
Last Week against the Saints, Carolina trailed 13-10 with 55 seconds to go in the 4th quarter. Newton stayed poised and relaxed as he drove the Panthers down field in less than 30 seconds. He hit wide receiver Domenik Hixon for the winning touchdown pass with 23 seconds left. He beat another marquee quarterback and this time it was Drew Brees. Newton is playing with an attitude and swagger that’s infectious on the entire roster. He’s more confident in the pocket and is making better reads as he goes through his progressions on a weekly basis. He studies film more astutely and is making better connections with his receivers other than Steve Smith. This week Carolina is headed back to Newton’s hometown of Atlanta and can possibly clinch an NFC South Division Title and if they do so it will be the first since 2008 they’ve won the division. Carolina’s Motto all year he’s been “Keep Pounding” and if they do so they’ll be dark horse to possibly do some damage in the NFC Playoffs this season.