— CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Lost in Carolina's controversial win over the New England Patriots Monday night was the breakout performance of third-year quarterback Cam Newton.
Or, as veteran wide receiver Steve Smith describes it, "just a little hint of greatness that is starting to shine through."
Newton turned in what might have been the defining win of his three-year NFL career in helping the Panthers knock off Tom Brady and the Patriots 24-20 to win their sixth straight game and remain one game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
Newton did it all.
He threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for 62 yards, keeping drives alive with mindboggling scampers. And, he led his team on a game-winning drive, taking them 83 yards on 13 plays for the go-ahead touchdown with 59 seconds remaining.
Smith isn't one to lavish praise on anyone but couldn't hold himself back talking about Newton after the game.
"It's just fantastic, just watching Cam grow, watching him lead this team, watching him go 83 yards," Smith said. "You hear all about statistics, about other guys having game-winning drives. Now Cam has his game-winning drive against a big team, against a worthy opponent. Just watching the young man grow — I just saw that young, 24-year old Cam Newton just chipping away."
Said Newton: "It's not about me. People want to keep making it about myself and the plays that I made. I couldn't have done it without the guys that gave me the opportunity to make the play. It's not a one-man show, by far."
It just seemed that way.
Newton was 5 of 8 for 57 yards on the final drive and ran twice for 18 yards on the go-ahead drive.