CHARLOTTE – Two plays. Only one quarterback capable of them.
Cam Newton produced 335 passing yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 117.4 in the NFC Championship. His growth as a lethal pocket passer was on full display.
But back-to-back runs in the third quarter put an exclamation point on the jaw-dropping talent that Newton possesses.
"People being able to see it on this stage – I think the appreciation for his talent is growing," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "He offers so much as a quarterback. Nobody has done it like this.
"Instead of trying to compare him to all of these other quarterbacks, just look at him and look at his skill set and look at what he's doing."
Look at what he did on third-and-10 with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter.
The Panthers, leading 27-7, called a power run for their 6-5, 245-pound quarterback. Cotchery laughed just hearing the situation recounted to him.
Newton didn't like what he saw between the hashes, so he bounced it outside to the right. Cardinals safety Chris Clemons made contact with him five yards short of the first-down marker, so Newton stiff-armed Clemons and lowered his shoulder, powering through the safety to fall forward for 11 yards. A back-breaking first down if there ever was one.
"Just find ways to win the football game," Newton said modestly after the game.
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula called Newton's number again on the next play. Newton took the shotgun snap, avoided defensive tackle Ed Stinson and ran right behind pulling linemen Ryan Kalil and Trai Turner.
Newton charged down the sideline. When he got to the 3-yard line, he launched into the air and somersaulted over Kalil for a 12-yard touchdown.
"Those two plays there – he's the only quarterback in the league who is doing that," tight end Greg Olsen said. "That sums him up. He's different. He's a special guy. What more can you say?"
After the game, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians was asked if Newton did anything that surprised him.
"Nothing," Arians said.
A bulldozing 11-yard run on third-and-10? No surprise. A flip into the end zone for a 12-yard score on the next play? Typical of Carolina's dynamic quarterback.
What we saw from Newton in the NFC Championship is his norm. It's what's expected, especially from the man himself.
"When you're put in a situation like this, a big game, you played it out so many times in your mind, so when you run a touchdown, when you throw, when you're flipping into the end zone, it's kind of like that dream has now become the reality," Newton said. "And yeah, it may be a surprise to so many people, but that's how I envisioned it in the dream."
Newton's dream of playing in the Super Bowl is about to become reality. Look out.
Take a look at the career of quarterback Cam Newton in photos.