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Strickly Panthers: Numbers mean nothing to Newton

Posted Sep 11, 2011

GLENDALE, Ariz. - As teammates throughout the locker room dressed for the plane ride home, Cam Newton simply sat.

Partially covering his face with a towel, it was obvious that for all the numbers that Newton amassed in his NFL debut, the only number that really mattered to him was the final score.

"Cam is very disappointed," wide receiver Steve Smith said. "I'm encouraged by that."

Newton crushed a pair of NFL yardage records involving quarterback debuts, racking up 422 yards through the air, but the Panthers still fell short in a 28-21 loss at the Arizona Cardinals.

"Like Coach says, when you're just good enough, you're just good enough to get beat," Newton said. "We've just got to go back and get better."

There were missed opportunities, mistakes and the like. But there also were positive plays, so many positive plays for a quarterback playing in his first NFL game.

Newton hit Smith – coming off a two-touchdown season - eight times for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He threw to tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey nine times, and he connected with them seven times.

Newton, who also ran for a touchdown, helped the Panthers pick up at least one first down on all but two possessions.

"We were a productive offense," left tackle Jordan Gross simply stated. "It was a tough game. He got hit a lot, and there was a lot of crowd noise. But he had incredible composure out there, against all odds. He was as advertised. He had a good day."

Just how good? He came within one yard of matching the franchise record for passing yards in a game (held by Chris Weinke) and surpassed NFL records involving quarterback debuts previously held by Peyton Manning and Otto Graham.

The magnitude of the numbers were reminiscent of Newton's one-year assault on college football last season, when he won the Heisman Trophy and led Auburn to the national championship while throwing 30 touchdown passes, running for 20 touchdowns and turning the ball over just seven times.

"What we saw on tape from his college days was outstanding, and he carried it over as a professional," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "He was very efficient, very effective.

"He's got a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I couldn't be more pleased with a rookie performance. He gave us an opportunity to win."

That opportunity, though, didn't pan out quite like Newton had hoped, and based on his body language in the locker room and his postgame comments, Newton bore the brunt of the blame.

"One thing I still have to work on is trust," Newton said. "I'm surrounded by a ton of talent, from Shockey to Olsen to the backs in the backfield and the receivers, so I just have to trust.

"The offensive line did an excellent job and gave me the time when I needed it. I've got to get the ball out of my hands."

There is some truth to that – Newton was sacked four times – but there's little doubt that the Panthers want the ball in his hands going forward.

"There's just something about him," Olsen said. "Some guys have that, and some guys don't."