“I told the defense, 'Let’s make him be Cam Newton and not Superman,'" McPhee said. "We don’t want him opening up the cape.”
McPhee knows firsthand what can happen when Newton transforms into a superhero on the field.
Seven years ago, McPhee squared off against Newton in Week 2 of the 2010 college football season when McPhee's Mississippi State team hosted Newton's Auburn squad in early-season SEC play.
Newton -- making just his second start for the Tigers as a transfer -- shined that night, outgaining the Bulldogs 146-125 by himself in the first half. Newton finished with two touchdown passes and 206 total yards of offense as Auburn won 17-14.
“He was a beast,” McPhee said. “I remember him running all over us. We did (hold him to 17 points), but he won the game all by himself.”
McPhee recalled that Newton’s physical traits were off the charts.
“He’s big, he’s tall, he can run and can throw,” McPhee said. “He has just about everything (you can have in terms of) talent. He’s a great quarterback, you know.”
Fast-forward to this Sunday. The primary mission for the Bears' defense is containing Newton.
The former league MVP has been up and down in 2017. Newton has tossed eight interceptions in six games, but he’s also thrown for 1,476 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 161 yards and three more touchdowns.
Either way, Newton has the Bears' undivided attention.
“Well, he’s a very versatile quarterback,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously, his running the ball, whether it be through his improvising with scrambling on called pass plays or the called running plays they do have for him, that’s a strength for him.
“We can’t just focus on stopping that. We’ve got to stop Cam Newton the passer and the runner. They’ve got good running backs they’re handing it off to and receivers and running backs he’s throwing it to, so you’ve got a total offense to stop.”