Whether he was “dabbin” after a first down or diving his way into the end zone, yesterday was another big game for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
He may have missed out on being PFF’s regular season MVP to Carson Palmer, who has subsequently struggled in the playoffs, but Newton has brought his incredible regular season form into the postseason and has been a major reason why Carolina is headed to Super Bowl 50. The NFL's version of Superman can't take all the credit, with the Panthers also boasting one of the best defenses in the league, but Carolina’s offense has been virtually unstoppable all year, and he's been the force driving it.
Including the playoffs, Newton has now accounted for 50 touchdowns this season, with 38 coming through the air, and another 12 on the ground. A big part of his success, though, has been avoiding turnovers, and with the exception of the interception to Patrick Peterson on an overthrow, yesterday was no different than the rest of the year.
But what really makes Newton so dangerous is that he can simultaneously dominate a game as a passer and as a runner. Since entering the league in 2011, three of the top five single-season rushing grades for a quarterback belong to Newton, with Russell Wilson claiming the other two. It's not just when he scrambles, either. Newton is actually the most dangerous runner on Carolina’s offense when designed runs are called, averaging 4.9 and 4.1 yards per carry off left and right end, respectively, this season.
We saw his prowess on the touchdown drive at the end of the third quarter against Arizona on two gigantic runs. On 3rd-and-10 with 2:49 remaining, he bounced the run outside and had picked up 5 yards before safety Chris Clemons could make contact with him. That initial tackle attempt didn't matter, given Newton's power. The monstrous quarterback muscled forward for another 6 yards and the first down. Then, on the very next play, the Panthers ran power to the right, with Newton following the pull blocks of center Ryan Kalil and right guard Trai Turner before leaping and flipping into the end zone, giving his Panthers a 34-7 lead.
That touchdown was a perfect glimpse at what makes the Panthers' rushing attack so dangerous. Newton showcased his speed and power combination, and the Carolina offensive line executed their pull blocks to perfection. The strength of their offensive line is on the interior, particularly at guard with Andrew Norwell and Turner, and it's becoming increasingly obvious just how difficult it is for an opposing defense to stop a run when that much momentum is coming at you.
Newton might not be having as successful a season this year if not for the ability of players like Turner and Norwell in front of him, but when you combine their blocking ability with just how tough he is to bring down, it makes for one of the most dynamic offenses in the league.