I’ll take fire, like we saw Sunday when the Panthers beat the Raiders 17-6. The alternative is a moping, pout-by-himself-on-the-sideline cancer that’s no good to his team.
But we haven’t seen that moping Newton for some time. Life’s been good for the second-year passer, who’s thrown for 1,478 yards, 11 touchdowns and just one interception over his last six games. Sunday, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdown passes and run for 20 scores in his first two seasons in the league.
But it wasn’t all sunshine in Sunday’s win—Carolina’s third in a row.
Newton was sacked in the second quarter and didn’t take too kindly to Raiders rushers celebrating over him as he was on the ground. In anger, he kicked Oakland’s Tommy Kelly and a scuffle ensued. Kelly was actually flagged for roughing the passer in the first head-scratching call from the officials involving Newton on the afternoon.
In the fourth quarter, Newton dumped a pass off to Brandon LaFell and Oakland’s Mike Mitchell, who was coming on a blitz, barreled Newton over well after he threw the pass. This no-call was miserable call No. 2 involving Newton.
Newton was angered by the absence of a flag and had words for referee Jerome Boger. When Newton bumped Boger, the flag for unsportsmanlike conduct flew into the air—and rightfully so.
Newton has to know that he can’t make contact with an official, and I expect the NFL to remind him of such with a hefty fine. But I do like the spirit Newton showed Sunday.
The fiery Newton—the one who fights for his teammates and fights for himself—is far better for the Panthers than the Newton that was criticized earlier in the year for moping. He should definitely leave the kicking opposing players and bumping officials behind but keep the fire and spit he showed Sunday.
With the win over the Raiders, the Panthers moved to 6-9, but their record isn’t indicative of the direction of this team. Carolina has won its last three football games and four of its last five. This is a team that has changed direction from earlier in the year.
The Panthers are led by a quarterback who has done exactly the same.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.