A weekly examination of the Panthers' quarterback play.
Rewind: Cam Newton says he could have played better in Sunday's 30-15 victory over the Rams. Yes, he could have avoided two sacks for minus-24 yards and rushed for more than 2.7 yards a carry. Otherwise, he was nearly flawless. His 88.2 completion rate was the best in team history in a game in which at least 15 passes were thrown. The previous best was 85.2 by Jake Delhomme in 2006. His 136.3 passer rating following a 143.4 a week earlier made him the only quarterback in the league with consecutive games of 136 or better. If he can play better, future opponents are in trouble.
Fast-forward: Tampa Bay, despite its struggles, was playing pretty good defense until facing the banged-up Atlanta Falcons. With their top two receivers out, quarterback Matt Ryan completed 20 of 26 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns for a passer rating of 148.4. Now the Bucs face a quarterback who has had only eight incompletions in the last two games combined in compiling Peyton Manning-like ratings. Newton has discovered the fastest way to success is to take what the other team gives him. He's dinking and dunking, but he's doing it effectively -- and with confidence. He still needs to get rid of the ball faster to avoid sacks, but he's playing at a level higher than any time during his brief career.
The real McCoy: Tampa Bay has one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL in Gerald McCoy. The Panthers have struggled at times on the inside rush. If McCoy and the Bucs take advantage of an offensive line that has given up 18 sacks and can get Newton out of his rhythm, this could get interesting.
Prediction: The Panthers are very quickly becoming Newton's team. With a prime-time audience, I look for him to continue his hot streak -- at least as it pertains to consistency and a high completion percentage. Look for him to throw for at least one touchdown and run for another.