Posted by Gregg Rosenthal on September 11, 2011, 7:59 PM EDT
It’s not often that the starting quarterback for the losing team is the biggest story in a game. But Cam Newton authored a debut unlike any the NFL has seen before.
The Panthers lost 28-21 in Arizona Sunday when Newton’s magic ran out. He completed a pass that came one yard shortof a first down near the goal line with under two minutes left. Before that setback, Newton racked up 422 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also leaped for a running score near the goal line.
The passing yards set an all-time record for a rookie quarterback debut, besting Peyton Manning’s former mark. Newton showed that he can make any throw. His aggressiveness largely paid off, he handled the blitz surprisingly well, and he didn’t look to run too quickly. He also knew where to throw the ball: Steve Smith caught eight passes for 178 yards and two scores.
Newton wasn’t the only quarterback or rookie in the game with an impressive debut. Kevin Kolb was more efficient than Newton, completing 18-of-27 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. While Cardinals rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson got beaten by Steve Smith a few times, Peterson also made the decisive play in the game.
Peterson’s 89-yard punt return was the difference . Not a bad debut for him either.
This was perhaps the game of the day, one that we recommend watching when the NFL Network inevitably replays it later in the week.
It was the type of game that should inspire plenty of optimism in Arizona, but we suspect Panthers fans will be just as excited. They have found their quarterback.
I was excited to see this performance by Cam, where he tied Matthew Stafford's mark of 422 yards passing. It showed that he can certainly be more than just another athlete under center, but a real quarterback. His upside is promising and something Panther fans can be hopeful about. Let's see how he develops through the season. He will experience plenty of peaks and valleys, it is inevitable for a rookie on a bad team. However let's not anoint him yet.