A weekly examination of the Panthers' quarterback play.
Rewind: Carolina coach Ron Rivera wouldn't call Cam Newton's performance against Minnesota the best of the quarterback's career, saying only it was top two or three. I'll go ahead and say it was No. 1. It goes beyond Newton's career-best passer rating of 143.4. It goes beyond that he passed for three touchdowns and ran for another. It has more to do with the little things. Like, on the 79-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, Brandon LaFell was Newton's third read. Like, on third down, he was 5-for-5 for 119 yards. Like, on two undesigned scrambles, he made a first down, including one that went for a touchdown. He was 18-for-21 on passes of 10 or fewer yards, and had only six incompletions all day. He was nearly flawless, and he looked as comfortable in the pocket as I've seen him.
Fast-forward: I circled St. Louis' No. 31 rank against the run not because I believe Newton will run rampant against the Rams but because Carolina's running game will open up the passing game. When Newton has time, as he did Sunday at Minnesota, he's been able to pick apart defenses, particularly average to bad ones like the one he'll face this week. If the Rams don't find a way to slow the league's eighth-best running game, Newton could have another field day.
Consistent Cam: Newton hasn't put together consecutive passer ratings of more than 100.0 since games 12 and 13 last season. He has done it only four times in his career. He has never done it in the first six games of the season. The last stat is the most significant if the Panthers hope to win two in a row in the first six weeks for the first time since 2009.
Prediction: In Carolina's two wins against the Giants and Vikings, Newton has six touchdown passes and two touchdown runs. He has thrown only one interception. The stage is set for another of that type of performance against a Rams defense ranked 22nd in the league.