CHARLOTTE – For three quarters Sunday, Cam Newton had the kind of uneven performance typical for countless quarterbacks visiting CenturyLink Field over recent years.
What Newton did in the fourth quarter, however, was anything but typical – though signs point to it becoming more of the norm for the fifth-year standout.
"He's played very well this year, so it's hard to say if one game has been better than another, but it most certainly was his best fourth quarter," head coach Ron Rivera said Monday, one day after Newton rallied the Panthers to a dramatic 27-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. "It's one of his best games."
It didn't look like it would be through three quarters. But after hitting on just 8-of-21 passes for 107 yards with two interceptions heading into the final quarter, Newton was 12-of-15 for 162 yards and a touchdown the rest of the way.
That precision keyed two 80-yard touchdown drives that turned a 23-14 deficit into a pulsating victory that improved Carolina to 5-0 on the season.
"He started slow – there were some things that they were doing that we had to adjust to – and I thought some of the adjustments we made as far as protection and play calling were outstanding," Rivera said. "We built confidence as the game went on."
Confidence in the former No. 1 overall draft pick, in fact, has been building over the years.
Between the white lines, Newton has always an air of confidence about him, but it didn't always translate to the success on the scoreboard that he and the Panthers had sought. Rivera said that the confidence shown by the Panthers toward Newton is among the things that have helped get him over the top.
"The confidence that we've shown in him over the years and the confidence we showed this summer with getting his contract done – having him and Luke (Kuechly) as our quarterbacks on offense and defense - is huge," Rivera said. "He's earned it, and he wants to show everybody that he deserves it. That's part of why he competes the way he does. To him, nothing is easy."
Confidence beyond bravado – confidence that produces results - doesn't come easy. That's something Newton understands, and that's why results like the one Sunday in Seattle mean so much to him.
"He works hard at it," Rivera said. "A lot of people don't understand, there's a lot of time he puts in behind the scenes. He's one of the last guys to leave – from his workouts, extra treatments and time in the film room to coming upstairs and meeting with the coaches on Tuesdays to share ideas and suggestions. Those are a lot of things people don't discuss.
"He's done a great job."
Take a look at the career of quarterback Cam Newton in photos.