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How Cam Newton got his groove back and outplayed Tom Brady

Joseph Person, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Football

Funchess caught seven passes for 70 yards and had the first two-touchdown game of his career. Funchess was fighting cramps on the final drive, but came up with a big, 5-yard reception on third-and-3 to help set up Graham Gano's game-winning field goal.

After his interception -- which he equated to a punt -- Newton did a better job going through his reads and finding the holes in the NFL's worst-ranked pass defense. Newton threaded several long passes to tight end Ed Dickson and wideout Kelvin Benjamin, but also was on point with most of the "layups" to Christian McCaffrey that Newton had been missing the first few weeks.

"Just moving the ball forward with the little check-downs is very key for us," Newton said. "As long as that defense is out there with the players we've got, something's bound to happen good for us. That's what my mentality has to be."

Newton completed 22 of 29 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 130.8, the second highest of his career on the road. His 75.9 completion percentage was the sixth-best of his career.

Newton moved past Jake Delhomme as the Panthers' winningest quarterback (54 victories) and improved to 2-0 against Brady.

"He knew he was playing one of the all-time great quarterbacks in the league," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "He wanted to show that he could play with that guy, and he really did."

Newton also was a factor in the run game for the first time this season. He picked up a couple of key first downs on quarterback draws and put the Panthers up by two touchdowns with a 7-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

Newton paused after the score -- the 50th rushing TD of his career -- and raised his left fist in a salute to black power. He then proceeded with his customary Superman celebration.

The Panthers don't want Newton 2.0 running the ball 10 to 15 times a day (he had eight carries for 44 yards Sunday). But Rivera agreed that when Newton is more involved in the run game, it seems to help him get in the flow overall.

Dickson saw it, too.

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