CHARLOTTE — With the clock approaching the two-minute warning of Sunday's home opener, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton rolled right. It was third-and-goal from the Bills' 2-yard line, and considering the visitors had scored just three points in 47 minutes, a touchdown would've buried them.
But instead of a touchdown and a potential 10-point lead, Newton overthrew open running back Christian McCaffrey.
"I'm disappointed in myself," Newton said, "but happy for the overall team."
Even though the answer was obvious, the follow-up question had to be asked.
"Just the accuracy," Newton replied when asked what specifically disappointed him. "Missing layups like that, it's uncalled for. I wish I had about two or three balls back."
The miss to McCaffrey came at the most inopportune time, but there was also an overthrow of a wide-open Ed Dickson for the second straight week. After that one in San Francisco, head coach Ron Rivera said Newton "got excited."
"I don't know what it was," Newton said. "It was incomplete."
Add Newton's 20-of-32 for 228 yards performance Sunday with his stat line against the 49ers and you get 34-of-57 for 399 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. To be fair, those numbers could be much worse, and his throw to Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone on the Panthers' opening drive Sunday was a bullet that would've been a touchdown if not for safety Jordan Poyer's jarring hit.
But five and a half months removed from shoulder surgery, Newton isn't just battling soreness. It's clear his limited training camp and preseason has his timing out of whack. It also seems he's fighting his psyche.
"No matter how I was feeling I can't keep having those little mishaps," Newton said. "Let me check myself. I just have to trust the whole process. Even though we see what's going on, I see what's going on and it's not happening the way I want it to happen, I know in the back of my mind things are going to get shaking.
"We're good. I'm good. Just knowing what my expectations are for myself, it starts with me. As this team leader, knowing offensively it's my job to put points up on the scoreboard. We didn't have a touchdown today and I'm disappointed in that."
Newton wasn't helped when tight end Greg Olsen limped off with a broken foot or when an offensive line missing Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil allowed six sacks. On the sixth, Newton landed awkwardly on his surgically repaired left ankle before he limped off the field.
"Man, it was scary," Newton admitted. "I didn't even want to say what I thought happened. When you hear it crunch up, the cartilage that was moving, just knowing when you get the blood back flowing and you start walking on it, you just gain confidence in it."
After trainers took a look at Newton's ankle, he returned for the Panthers' final drive looking like the MVP from 2015. He moved the offense with completions on six of his first seven throws. But then came the misfire to McCaffrey and a reminder that Newton's not yet the quarterback he wants and needs to be.
"I felt great. We felt great in that last drive. We were moving the football," he said. "We just have to find a way to get the football in the end zone inside the 5-yard line. There is no excuse that can fix this one.
"It all starts with me. If I complete that pass we're having a different tone in this interview. I'm optimistic for the future and things will get better."