After this year, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will no longer be a rookie. Every year after that will mean another one under his belt and even more experience for him to bolster his freakish physical abilities. Assuming that Newton's career trajectory resembles more of a Donovan McNabb than a Daunte Culpepper, this is something the New Orleans Saints and Who Dat Nation should be terrified of.
Thankfully, though, that is all in the future and, in sports, speculation and predictions come a distant second to actual success and achievements. The Saints beat the Panthers 30-27 on Sunday and, while you could be worried about the Saints struggling to beat the worst team in their division, it's not like we should be surprised that it was as close a game as it was.
Newton, in case you've been living under a rock, is a sensation despite he's team's 1-4 record. People are already falling over themselves to praise the kid for his athleticism, strength and playmaking ability. Despite an interception by Patrick Robinson on the first play of the game, the Saints' could not have thought they were going to have an easy time containing the rookie from Auburn. And they didn't.
Newton threw for 224 yards, two passing touchdowns and ran in a touchdown. Newton's play opened the field up for DeAngelo Williams who ran for 115 yards and a 69-yard touchdown of his own. Both players asked questions of the Saints defense that were not convincingly answered, but neither did quite enough to win the game for their team.
It's a good thing, then, that the Saints have Drew Brees as their quarterback. When the Saints lost the lead for the first time all game, it was Brees that stepped up with an 8-of-9 passing performance on the team's final drive that saw them go 80 yards for a touchdown and take the lead for good.
It's important to note that Brees also had an interception in this game and it came on an overthrown ball to Jimmy Graham. That turnover is what led to the Panthers' touchdown drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter. It's also important to remember that Carolina head coach Ron Rivera gifted the Saints a field goal at the end of the first half when he called a timeout right before time expired as John Kasay was lining up a hurried attempt. Those three points ended up being the margin of victory for New Orleans and, in many ways, the Saints were lucky to have won.
But the difference between the Saints and the Panthers is that, when the Saints absolutely, positively needed a touchdown to win the game, they drove down the field methodically and unstoppably. Was there any question in your mind that Drew Brees could take his team down the field to win it in those final minutes? More importantly, with the Panthers needing just a field goal to tie and force overtime, they managed just 29 yards when they needed 45 to get their kicker in range.
Maybe one day the script will be flipped on Sunday's game and it will be Newton marching his team down field like an unstoppable force. But that wasn't the case this week, and that's all that really matters.