GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Panthers have gone to great lengths to remind everyone that this wasn't just about Cam Newton.
Newton himself reinforced that message Sunday night, when he didn't even do the first postgame press conference of his second stint with the team alone.
Newton walked in with wide receiver Robbie Anderson, who was happy to stand beside him and answer a question or two, but mostly serve as a sidekick to the guy who didn't wait long to assert his influence, having a hand in touchdowns on his first two touches during a 34-10 win over the Cardinals. And when Anderson was asked how much the team needed the spark Newton provided to the offense, he replied: "One thousand percent."
Newton himself took a far smaller percentage of the credit.
"I know a lot of people in the media, the newspapers, the blogs, ... They want to make it about me. It's not about me. I keep saying it's not about me," he said. "This was an impeccable team win.
"I'm so proud of (starting quarterback) P.J. (Walker), looking down the barrel so many times and delivering the ball, as well as everybody pulling together. It was exciting for us as a team, as an offense to take turns making plays."
Now make no mistake, he's still Cam Newton.
Asked immediately after that response how much of the team's offense he was able to learn in a short time, he replied: "Two touchdowns worth."
That answer was worth celebrating in and of itself, as much as his first touchdown. After that one, he took off his helmet, yelled "I'm back," and earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Newton said he promised head coach Matt Rhule he wouldn't repeat that, learning the lesson from being on the couch last Sunday.
"This time last week, I was eating a bowl of cereal, you hear me," Newton said. "So I told coach Rhule that would never happen again, that was on me."
Newton finished the game 3-of-4 passing for 8 yards and a touchdown to Anderson. He also drew a long pass interference penalty on a deep ball to DJ Moore, in addition to his three carries for 14 yards and a touchdown.
The timing was more important than the cumulative stats, with Newton's first two touches reaching the end zone lending it a cinematic quality.
The setting didn't hurt, either. This was the same stadium where he won a national championship in college, and played his first NFL game. And after talking so much about Moses in his re-introductory press conference, Newton laughed and noticed he was in the desert in front of a bunch of fans known as "the Red Sea."
"You can't make up a lie this good," he said.
Newton kept going back to the message of being one of 53, and wanting to be a part of the greater whole.
"I'm here for a reason, and that reason is to hold everyone accountable," rattling off a list of players and coaches. "I'm no different than anyone else, and I want people to hold me accountable. I think the thing I've learned as growth, who cares who gets the glory? When you get a game like this, we all win."
Rhule knows how this one will be perceived to the outside world, and he wouldn't be pinned down when asked who'd start at quarterback next Sunday against Washington. He praised Newton for being "selfless," and talked about the way he celebrated on the sidelines with Walker, whose role is interim at best.
But Rhule also knows there's something about the potential of adding a playmaking quarterback to a team with a defense as good as this one, and when it comes with the kind of shine Newton brings to every interaction, that's a bonus.
"That was fun today," Rhule said. "Let's let it be fun."
See photos from State Farm Stadium as Carolina takes on Arizona in Week 10.