CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- This is why coaches like to watch film before fully evaluating a player's performance.
His passer rating was 52.7, well below his average of 93.1 coming into the game and worse than all but one game this season. He completed only 50 percent of his passes, again way below the 64.4 success rate through eight games.
But when you consider the way Newton managed the game, the mistakes made around him and the way he came up with big plays when the Panthers (6-3) needed them the most, it wasn't nearly so bad.
"Figures lie and liars figure,'' coach Ron Rivera said. "You can look at the numbers all you want. Put the tape on and see what happened. See how many times the ball got tipped, how many times the ball got dropped, how many times he overthrew it.
"He didn't play a bad game. I mean it, too.''
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterback coach Ken Dorsey concurred.
"He's the quarterback, and we all know the quarterback is going to get a lot more credit and a lot more blame during wins and losses, or production or lack of,'' Shula said.
"In the passing game, we were just a little bit off, whether it was throws or catches or protection.''
Rivera counted three dropped passes, and suspects there were a couple more. He counted several balls that were tipped at the line of scrimmage. He pointed to several breakdowns on the offensive line, a big one resulting in an 8-yard loss two plays before Graham Gano kicked the game-winning 53-yard field goal.
The play before the field goal is one of those that impressed Rivera. Newton under pressure threw a short pass to Steve Smith for 6 yards that put Gano within field goal range.
Rivera also noted the 9-yard pass to Smith on third-and-8 that allowed the Panthers to run the clock under two minutes before San Francisco regained possession.
"That dump-off pass to Steve that put us in field goal position was huge,'' River said. "I don't get it, but that's [final statistics] what people are going to see and people are going to say. We're not going to worry about that.
"We're going to worry about how we do things here and the things we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win.''
Newton gave the Panthers a chance to win.