CHARLOTTE – During a drill at practice Wednesday designed to work on accuracy but somewhat resembling a rigged carnival game, quarterback Cam Newton got 10 chances to try to throw a football into a bucket 45 yards downfield.
How many times did he succeed?
"Zero," Newton said with a smile. "But tomorrow, I'm going to try to hit one."
Newton, in an upbeat mood following an upbeat practice with "a lot of pizazz" as he put it, said that having five-time Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith close to his intended target would help him get the ball in the bucket.
"Most of the time, I'll be honest with you, throwing the ball to Steve Smith, those are bad throws, but they are completed," Newton said. "Another Panthers first down."
Sunday, when the Panthers face the New York Giants in a critical game for both teams, Newton will be dealing with moving targets all day. With that in mind, he and his teammates are moving on, looking forward to the matchup of 0-2 teams rather than continuing to look back at the heartbreaking loss last Sunday to Buffalo.
"If we keep dwelling on the fact that we're 0-2, we're going to look up and before we know it we're going to be 0-3," Newton said. "It's Wednesday. It was Sunday that it happened.
"We have to move forward and get better because whether you want to believe it or not, the Giants are coming to town."
Some players and coaches on the Giants checked off the No. 1 item on their bucket list at the end of the 2007 season when they hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions. They started that season 0-2.
"This is a great team we're playing, no matter what their record is," Newton said.
At this point in time, Newton's bucket list doesn't make mention of any trophies, unless perhaps quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey fashions a homemade plaque for the first Panthers quarterback to drop a ball into the bucket.
Instead, Newton's bucket list has room for just one goal: Beat the Giants, or die trying.
"The most important thing that should be on our mind is leaving this facility each day knowing that I've done enough to put my team in the best situation to be 1-2," Newton said. "But we're not going to look that far down the road. We still have our day-to-day challenges ahead of us, making sure we know our game plan and know our responsibilities."
For Newton, that means striving for consistency. He hit Ted Ginn for a 40-yard touchdown pass against the Bills but also led him a little too far on two other occasions – not easy to do given Ginn's wheels.
Of course, Newton would love to have those throws back, but that obviously isn't an option. His only recourse is to be prepared when the next opportunity arises.
Opportunity will knock again Sunday, and there's a decent chance that both teams will look back on this matchup as a turning point – one way or the other – in their seasons.
But on Wednesday, Newton wasn't looking back.
"This is a big game coming up. We're going to need our fans more than ever," he said. "We expect to play the best game that we've played this year."