Cam Newton is on point, and noise for him as the MVP only grows

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The chants began late in the fourth quarter, when Cam Newton rolled left on a bootleg for a 7-yard gain and first down out of what the Carolina Panthers call their "hammer" offense.

"MVP! MVP!" shouted Carolina fans who made the trip to Tennessee's Nissan Stadium.

The chants got louder when Newton stretched the ball over the goal line for a 2-yard touchdown with 2 minutes, 48 seconds left in the 27-10 victory over the Titans.


On the road, no less.

At this point it seemed as though some of the Tennessee fans were jumping on Newton's bandwagon for the league's most valuable player award.

"He probably got a couple of more fans today," Panthers cornerback Josh Norman said.

The one blemish on Newton's accomplishments during the first half of the season was his 53.7 completion percentage, which ranked 31st in the league. That most of Newton's passes are downfield and there aren't a lot of safe screens or bubble passes in the offense had been a factor. That Newton has had a fair amount of drops from a relatively unknown group of receivers didn't help.

But on Sunday, Newton showed the laser-like precision of Tom Brady. Newton completed his first 11 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. He finished 21-for-26 for the second-highest completion percentage of his carer (80.8). Only an 88.2 percent effort against the St. Louis Rams in 2013 was higher.

He strengthened his case for the MVP by quieting the critics who latched onto his weakness.

He gets the vote of teammate and fullback Mike Tolbert.

"We see a guy that's been through it all the past couple of years," Tolbert said, alluding to Newton's undergoing ankle surgery, fracturing his ribs and injuring his back in a car crash. "For him to get out there and continue to fight and keep making plays. … I mean, did you hear the 'MVP' chants at the end of the game? All right."

Newton said he didn't pay any attention to the "MVP" chants. And he seemed surprised to learn he completed his first 11 attempts.

"I did?" he said with a smile.

Asked what led to his accuracy, Newton smiled again and said, "Clear weather."

"Last couple games playing in tsunamis and things like that, but we had a beautiful day in Nashville today."

Newton can make light of the performance, but he cares about his completion percentage. He spent much of the offseason and training camp working on footwork and fundamentals. He said before the season his goal was to complete 65 to 70 percent of his passes.

"It's not always on him," wide receiver Corey Brown said of Newton's percentage before Sunday. "It's 10 other guys out there that also are responsible for that. He's capable of doing that every game. We see it in practice."

Carolina coach Ron Rivera knows the importance of Newton completing a higher percentage of passes, particularly as the team gets into bigger and tighter games around playoff time. He called Sunday's performance "awesome."

Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. called those who nitpick at Newton's completion percentage the "naysayers."

"Cam does this every day," he said. "Every week we go to practice he completes his passes. He makes plays. That's all he can do is continue to make plays.

"We don't worry about completion percentages and all of that. We're 9-0."

In the end, winning will go a longer way toward Newton's case for the MVP than completion percentage. A win was all Newton really wanted on Sunday. He never acknowledged the chants in the huddle.

"He was just like, 'Hey, I'm tired. Let's go ahead and finish this out,'" Tolbert said.

And then Newton finished it.