CHARLOTTE – Count Panthers quarterback Cam Newton among the legion of Peyton Manning fans.
Just not this week.
"He's transcended to a god of the game, so to speak," Newton said. "He's obviously a Hall of Fame quarterback. What he has done for this game and the records he has set are extraordinary.
"It's going to be exciting to watch, but I'm not wishing him any luck for this game."
Sunday, Newton and the Panthers will welcome Manning and his new team, the Denver Broncos, to Bank of America Stadium.
Newton has briefly met Manning a couple of times, including an on-field exchange after the Panthers beat the Manning-less Indianapolis Colts last season. More so though, Newton feels like he knows Manning through his endless list of commercial appearances but also through the best form of self-promotion for an NFL quarterback – his remarkable on-field accomplishments.
Last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Manning added the latest record to his collection, breaking Dan Marino's mark for game-winning drives with his 48th. That's exactly twice as many comebacks as Newton has games played.
That would make for a pretty unfair comparison, but it does make for interesting timing that Manning comes calling when Newton is in the throes of trying to develop his ability to finish games.
"Obviously, we've had games that we've been in until the end that we've let slip away," Newton said. "But I think we're getting it."
The process took a positive step for Newton and the Panthers last Sunday, when they staved off the Washington Redskins for a road victory. The four games prior didn't go nearly as well in that regard.
In the first and last one, Newton was poised to add a pair of game-winning drives to his list of credentials against a pair of teams that still have lost just one game combined. In Atlanta, a Newton fumble that cost Carolina a first down and a quick strike by the Falcons offense added up to a demoralizing loss. In Chicago, a late field goal didn't hold up as the Bears drove for an even later field goal.
In between, the Panthers offense twice missed out on chances to orchestrate game-winning drives at home against stout defenses, falling one yard short against Seattle and considerably shorter with the Dallas defense and a couple of questionable whistles standing in their path.
The Washington game, however, showed progress and showed a new level of resolve that the Panthers managed to develop even in the face of a five-game losing streak – or perhaps because of the five-game losing streak.
"The challenge is for everybody to go as far as your body will allow, to do everything possible to make sure that before you lay your head down, the Carolina Panthers are 1-0," Newton said. "It's a new challenge each and every week."
This week, that winning equation must account for Manning, who has taken away numerous would-be winning drives from opposing quarterbacks since entering the league in 1998.
"Obviously, Newton said, "we have to put a halt to that this weekend."