- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton stood in the corner of the end zone and pantomimed ripping open the chest of his shirt while fans showered him with cheers. It’s his trademark touchdown celebration, one that NFL teams are quickly getting used to seeing from the league’s most dynamic rookie. Newton mimics how Clark Kent reveals the Superman costume, with that unforgettable “S,” under his dress shirt.

Newton might not have been a superhero on Sunday, but he looked darn close against the Washington Redskins‘ defense. He made Bank of America Stadium his phone booth, accounting for two touchdowns and 315 yards of offense in the Carolina Panthers‘ 33-20 win.

The afternoon was supposed to be about new Washington quarterback John Beck. Instead, Newton showed the Redskins how exciting a bona fide franchise quarterback prospect can be.

“The kid is a pretty Ferrari,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “He can run. He can throw. He’s the total package. He’s going to be a player in this league for a long time.”

Beck’s debut as the Redskins‘ starter became secondary in a loss that sends them reeling. Washington (3-3) lost for the second straight week and for the third time in its last four games. The Redskins‘ 3-1 start seems like it happened in a different season. The Panthers won for only the second time this year, but Washington was the team that seemed to be languishing in last place.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith had seven catches for 143 yards in Carolina's 33-20 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith had seven catches for 143 yards ... more >

“It [stinks], but sometimes that’s what you need,” receiver Jabar Gaffney said. “It’ll humble us a little bit and help us work a little bit harder to get back to doing things the way we should be doing things.”

What began as a dull field-goal battle turned into a showcase for the progress Newton has made since the Panthers drafted him first overall in April. And the reigning Heisman Trophy winner did it against a defense that entered the day ranked sixth in the NFL in yards allowed per game.

Carolina scored touchdowns on its first three possessions of the second half and turned a 9-6 halftime lead into a comfortable win. Newton was the catalyst.

It actually started on the game’s third play from scrimmage. All 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds of Newton dropped back to pass. When the Redskins pressured him, he took off running. He broke four tackles on the 25-yard gain.

That play accounted for almost half of his 59 rushing yards. He got 16 more on his touchdown in the third quarter, the one that prompted his Superman celebration.

Newton, operating out of the shotgun, faked a handoff to the running back on his left and kept the ball. He ran to the left, following his tight end and surging through a sizeable opening in Washington’s defense.

It’s a zone-read run that is extremely common in the college game these days but isn’t prevalent in the NFL because of defenders’ speed. But Newton is a rare athlete who can make pro defenses respect it.

When he saw linebackers Brian Orakpo and London Fletcher get sucked inside on the run fake, he kept it for an easy score.

“I’m going to play my job,” Orakpo said. “I can’t control two people. My job is to go for the dive, go for the running back, and be late on the quarterback. It’s very tough on a defense when everybody is not sound as far as when the zone read is coming.”

The Redskins stopped that play at times, but it was an integral part of a rushing attack that amassed 175 yards.

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