CHARLOTTE -- As one of eight players who owns both a Heisman and NFL MVP Trophy, quarterback Cam Newton knows a thing or two about success.
With that said, Newton also understands how blinding the spotlight that comes with it can be. With the Panthers at 5-2 entering Week 9 and people suggesting he might be playing the best football of his NFL career, Newton is trying to make sure his team doesn't lose sight of what it takes to keep winning.
"That's the biggest distraction," Newton said of success during his Wednesday press conference. "When you face adversity that's when you start turning over every rock, stone, pan and pot just trying to find a way. But when you're winning and you're succeeding, a lot of things get brushed up under the rug and over time you see a big pile under the rug.
"At the end of the day, we just have to make sure that we're doing everything that has got us to this point and still focusing in and understanding what our job and our responsibility is."
For Carolina, adversity has recently come in the form of comeback efforts in their last three games. After the rally fell short in Week 6, the Panthers overcame a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Eagles and an early 7-0 hole to blow out the Ravens in Week 8. It was a dynamic display by Newton and the offense, and he credits all of the contributions as the driving force, even those that went unnoticed.
"So many guys have been stepping up and making big plays for us, subtle plays that may not be on the stat sheet but its still imperative that we keep that focus moving forward," he said.
Newton's stellar play has ignited conversations comparing his 2015 MVP season to what we're seeing from him in 2018. In the last two wins, he completed 67.6 percent (46-of-68) of his passes for 488 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. But the most impressive stat may be that Newton was sacked just twice, something he mentioned as a catalyst for helping him find a groove.
"It's just guys gearing down and getting the job done. It allows me to take more chances. It's allowed me to understand when to take chances," Newton said. "Getting the ball out is important in this offense. Staying on rhythm is important and that's what it comes down to.
"(The offensive line) has been playing lights out and I don't expect that to change."
Newton clicking on all cylinders has afforded more chances for playmakers such as Christian McCaffrey. In Week 8, McCaffrey rushed for 45 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, and caught four passes for 11 yards and a touchdown. While McCaffrey's usage (439 of 456 offensive snaps this season) has been high, Newton highlighted how the running back's versatility and ability to misdirect defenses has elevated the offense.
"It's so alarming in a good way that certain players, if you just get the ball in their hands, you know you have to do your job and the hardest job is just getting it in their hands and just watch out and see what they do," Newton explained. "We just have that knack that a lot of guys on our team turn into physical runners on the perimeter and with the help of C-Mac of not only being able to run between the tackles and run outside on the perimeter, he just opens it up for so many different players to make plays."
The outside world had been waiting to see how Norv Turner's offense would take off once all the weapons were incorporated, and it seems like the group is beginning to strike the right balance. As the Buccaneers prepare to visit Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, Newton intends to stay true to his preparation, block out the noise and build on what has been a solid run.
"Guys just understanding what they're supposed to do and I'm one of those guys so I just better be on my A-game," Newton said. "I pride myself on being well prepared come game time. When game time comes the work is already in. Its just time to perform."