Cam Newton is at top of his game

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn't sound like the winning quarterback on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

"I feel like I was erratic on a lot of things, checks, a lot of things,'' he said.

He later added, "The sad thing about it, I really feel I could have played a little better.''

It should be noted here these words came from a player who had only two incompletions and compiled a passer rating of 136.3 in a 30-15 win over the St. Louis Rams.

It should be noted that this performance came a week after Newton had only six incompletions with a career-best rating of 143.4 in a 35-10 victory over Minnesota.

It should be noted Carolina evened its record at 3-3 this deep into a season for the first time under third-year coach Ron Rivera.

If Newton can do better he should change his name to Peyton Manning, whose best two-week stretch this season had a rating of 135.8 and 146.0 against Oakland and Philadelphia.

"He got sacked twice for minus 24 yards,'' Rivera said. "That is probably the biggest negative of the day. He has to be comfortable enough and willing enough to throw those away.''

Otherwise, Newton is playing at the level the Panthers hoped he would when they made him the first pick of the 2011 draft. He's had games with way more touchdowns and passing yards than he had Sunday -- where he went 15-for-17 for 204 yards and one touchdown. He's had games with more rushing yards than his 10 carries for 26 yards, none longer than 13.

But when it comes to consistency and efficiency, this might be his best stretch ever. He kept the offense going on a day when the Rams finally learned how to slow the run.

He did it particularly when it mattered.

"We talked about it last week with [Brandon] LaFell's touchdown; he was the third option,'' Rivera said. "When you start seeing him doing those types of things to give us a chance to win, you know he's matured.''

Newton has matured not only by what he does on the field, but how he presents himself off the field. He caught himself about to say how proud he was of "my team'' and changed it to "the team.''

But this is becoming Newton's team. Maybe not quite the way the Broncos are Manning's team or the New England Patriots are Tom Brady's team, but in a way that makes the Carolina offense productive even on a day when nobody looked spectacular.

"It all starts with him,'' tight end Greg Olsen said. "He's confident. He's making throws with confidence. He's hitting guys in stride, allowing guys to make clean catches and do something with it after.

"I don't know if our stats were flashy today. I know he was probably pretty efficient.''

The good news for Carolina, Newton believes he can play better.