The play: (Nov. 3) Newton sheds three tackles on third-and-12 early in the second quarter and then finds wide receiver Steve Smith open for a 23-yard completion.
The final score: Panthers 34, Falcons 10
Why it made the list: This one wasn't a game-winner and it didn't lead to a touchdown because the drive ended with one of Newton's two interceptions on the day. But it was spectacular and it did stifle some of the momentum Atlanta had gained after cutting the lead to 7-3 in the second quarter. A three-and-out might have been disastrous. Newton didn't let that happen. Faced with third-and-12 from his own 18 when he took the snap out of the shotgun, Newton did his best Houdini impression, disappearing from the grasp of three defenders long enough to find Smith open for a first down. It admittedly wasn't Newton's best game. He called his play "unacceptable." But the completion to Smith symbolized in many ways how far Newton had grown as a leader. As left tackle Jordan Gross said afterward, "There were times today where he could have gotten rattled. He took some shots and had some turnovers, but he didn't [get rattled]. He kept on swinging." Newton's 8-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter all but sealed this one, giving Carolina a 24-10 lead. But he made few plays during the season that were more amazing than this one.