Newton never looked more comfortable

Cam Newton against the Minnesota Vikings had the best passing day statistically of his career. AP Photo/Jim Mone

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was methodical, making sure his cuff links were turned the right way and the knot on his tie was perfectly straight, as he dressed in front of his locker following Sunday's 35-10 victory against the Minnesota Vikings.

He was even more methodical in picking apart the Vikings.

Statistically, it was the best passing performance of his NFL career -- 20-for-26 for 242 yards and three touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 143.4. He also ran for a touchdown.

There hasn't been a time this season, maybe since he was selected with the first pick of the 2011 draft, that he looked more comfortable in the pocket.

"I wouldn't say that,'' Newton deadpanned.

He didn't offer a game in which he was more comfortable, though, so the evidence is hard to deny.

And while much focus will be placed on his first-half efficiency -- 10-for-14 for 85 yards and two touchdowns -- he's had good first halves throughout this season.

It's what Newton did in the third quarter that was most impressive. He connected with wide receiver Brandon LaFell for a 79-yard touchdown pass on the third play. He finished 8-for-9 for 134 yards, a passer rating of 155.8.

This from a quarterback who had completed only 50 percent of his second-half passes in Carolina's three losses.

"His focus and attention to detail on things all week,'' coach Ron Rivera said. "It's all part of the progress of him developing. He understands it and he's going to continue to work at it, and we'll continue to work as a group.''

Newton admitted on Wednesday he had to be more consistent. It was as if he had read statistics that noted since the start of 2012 he'd had only seven games with at least a 60 percent completion percentage, something 22 other quarterbacks had more of during that same time frame.

On this day he had a completion percentage of 79.6 percent, the second-highest of his career.

Mission accomplished in the consistency department?

"To a degree, I did,'' Newton said. "But it always has to be a constant though, and being thorough with my craft for a full four quarters and not just one half. With that in the back of my mind, I felt as if they whole offense played as consistent as we did the whole year up to this point.''

It began with Newton. He was sacked only once after being sacked seven times a week ago at Arizona because he got rid of the ball faster and made better decisions on running away from pressure.

He also got a lot of help from his receivers, who held onto balls that a week ago they dropped at a time when the Panthers could have taken charge.

The coaching staff helped too with an aggressive passing game to get Newton in an early rhythm, and by showing confidence in the team to gamble on fourth-and-one twice on Carolina's first series.

As tight end Greg Olsen reminded, it doesn't all begin or end with one player -- meaning Newton.

But when Newton plays with the type of methodical efficiency he did on Sunday, it makes all look good.

"With the way Cam is playing right now with some confidence is important,'' Rivera said. "We have to carry that on to next week. We can't have a good week, a bad week, a good week, a bad week.

"We have to be a consistent football team. That's the bottom line.''