CHARLOTTE – When quarterback Cam Newton is in the kind of rhythm that he's been in the last couple of weeks, it looks like he could just draw up plays in the dirt and make them work.
In actuality, it's just the opposite approach leading up to game day that is allowing Newton to make it look so easy on game day.
"I can't stress enough how much proper preparation can increase the confidence come game time," Newton said. "When you come up to the line and you've been coached to expect this look, when you get it, you don't panic. It works wonders.
"Hard work through the week pays dividends."
Those dividends have come in the form of a high level of efficiency consecutive victories, with Newton producing a career-high 143.4 passer rating two weeks ago at Minnesota and completing a career-high 88.2 percent of his passes last week versus St. Louis.
"It's not me. It's the offense," Newton said. "The line has been playing great, and guys have been catching the ball and doing something with it.
"We're playing more confident. We're doing the little things right."
Behind the scenes, Newton is playing a bigger role in the little things. As he's become more comfortable in the offense, the coaching staff has become more comfortable with handing him more of the reigns.
"He's a little more involved in terms of helping in the decisions about what plays are going to be called. That's been a big part of his maturation process," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He comes in on Tuesday (typically a day off), they sit down and go through a list, and he brings a list. They talk about what he's most comfortable with.
"Come Wednesday, after practice they talk about what he did like and didn't like, and Thursday it's the same thing."
That's not to suggest it's a Cam-centric process. Newton's role has increased, but offensive coordinator Mike Shula, quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey and backup quarterback Derek Anderson are all in it together.
"Coach Shula has been putting in some plays that have been liked by many different players, not just myself. We have discussions, and if we don't like it, he throws the play out, whether he likes it or not," Newton said. "We have a slogan – 'rank-less and tag-less' – so you can take your coaching tag off, take your captain tag off, and if something's not right then you say something about it.
"Coach Dorsey has been doing an unbelievable job as well as Derek of making my life easier so that I don't have to think. I just have to react come game day."
Of late, all of the reactions by Newton and about Newton have been positive ones.
"He's got a better feel for what we're trying to do," Rivera said. "He's going through his progressions, and he's got a great feel for that. He's really worked very hard on that, and you're starting to see the fruits of that labor.
"It just takes repetition to get to where he's comfortable and confident in what he's doing, and seeing teammates make plays is also big. He's getting into a rhythm. It's coming together, and hopefully it will continue."