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Newton in the zone

TAMPA, Fla. – Some might say this three-game stretch is the best Cam Newton has played the quarterback position since he entered the NFL.

Newton will let others be the judge, but it's hard to argue against after Carolina's 31-13 victory over Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium, a game in which he became the first player in NFL history to have 50 passing touchdowns and 25 rushing touchdowns in any three-year span.

Against the Buccaneers on Thursday night, Newton completed 23-of-32 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 111.6 and ran for a team-leading 50 yards with a 6-yard score.

In the previous two games, Newton tossed four total touchdowns and no interceptions, completing 35-of-43 passes. His passer rating was 143.4 in Week 6 and 136.3 in Week 7.

And while others may point to Newton's gaudy individual statistics in those three wins, the third-year quarterback insists his success is merely a product of the execution of an entire offense.

"I feel as if my production is off a lot of people's production as well," Newton said. "If you want to solely say I'm playing great, it also means a lot of other guys are playing great. This is not a one-man show. I understand that, and I will not have that type of attitude."

So what's made this offense and its quarterback look so good?

"It's a culmination of a lot of things," Newton said. "When you've got an offensive line protecting the way they're protecting, you've got a running back that's running and you've got receivers that are making plays after the catch, it's really not hard. It's just up to me to make the right decision."

Newton made plenty of good decisions Thursday, leading the Panthers to their third straight win.

He's shown poise and decisiveness. He appears to be in total command, running when he has to and throwing the ball away when he has to.

Left tackle Jordan Gross said he sees an increased comfort level in Newton.

"I think Cam is the most comfortable he's ever been being our quarterback now, and I think that's because he feels like he doesn't have to carry the whole load on his shoulders," Gross said.

The weight is being distributed throughout this offense, but the success begins with the man under center.

And when Carolina's playmaking quarterback is performing at this level, the Panthers are extremely hard to beat.

As tight end Greg Olsen said, "You are going to win a lot of football games with your quarterback playing like that."

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