Newton has silenced his doubters

There were many reasons not to like Cam Newton coming out of college. Off the field, he had controversy surrounding his departure from Florida and allegations about potential violations at Auburn. On the field, his ability to make the change from the spread to a more conventional pro-style offense was questioned. But he answered it all.

Newton has been everything the Panthers could have hoped for. The Panthers quietly re-signed key veterans on offense and defense, plus they made two great additions at tight end by acquiring Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen. With those two acquisitions, plus the return of both running backs, it helped wide receiver Steve Smith get off to a monster start after expressing a desire to leave Carolina in the offseason. Smith and Newton have a special magic right now.

I know it’s only the second win of his young career, but Newton and his teammates dominated a Washington defense that is capable of dialing up a lot of pressure.

The Panthers have done a great job of adapting their offense to incorporate things that fit Newton’s unique skill set. He has Michael Vick athleticism on a 6-foot-5 frame. Maybe it’s a glimpse into the future of the quarterback position. Newton has also done a great job of embracing the responsibility that comes with being the face of the franchise. I think you have to say hats off to Panthers owner Jerry Richardson for first pulling the trigger on selecting Newton, and also giving the young man some advice on what it takes to be a successful pro.

The Panthers and Newton are definitely on the right track. This is a team that’s a lot of fun to watch and has a very bright future.

Across the pond

How to deal with the international game is a real quandary for teams. The Bears, who were dealing with a six-hour time change, opted to treat the London game like a regular road game and arrived on Friday. Tampa Bay had a five-hour time change and decided to show up on Tuesday, spending the week at a five-star resort hotel in Surrey.

Ironically, it was the Buccaneers who looked like a team suffering from jet lag and by the time they woke up in the second half, it was much too late. I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong way to approach an international game, but I do know it’s tough on a football team.

This ended up being a bad loss for a young Bucs team, one still fighting for a chance at a wild-card berth. It seems the Bears have started to find the right formula for their offense. Jay Cutler is getting rid of the ball quicker and they’re definitely running Matt Forte better and giving him a lot of opportunities to dominate a game. Mike Martz has adapted to what his players are capable of executing. And Cutler, thankfully, isn’t taking a beating on every play.

Lions reveal some flaws

The Atlanta Falcons definitely have rediscovered their formula for winning. They’re sticking with Michael Turner, the power back Michael Strahan refers to as a bowling ball.

It helped the Falcons that Detroit is scrambling to find a running game right now. Losing Jahvid Best has really hurt, as he always seemed to play a major role in their second half surges this season. All of us are surprised that Detroit has now lost two straight at home. Ford Field, the crowd noise inside that place, seemed like such a big advantage for them.

It also appears opponents are starting to figure out what works against Detroit’s defensive line. They’re hitting them inside with a lot of H-back and wham-like plays. If you can get their front people blocked there are big plays to be made against the Lions. If a running back gets past that defensive front, they can go a long way. Turner did that a few times. Frank Gore and the 49ers showed him the way last Sunday.

It also didn’t help the Lions that quarterback Matthew Stafford has been a little erratic these past two weeks. Outside of his big touchdown throw to Calvin Johnson, the Lions were 3-for-13 on third-down conversions. That’s not good enough, particularly at home. All of a sudden the Lions face a must-win game next Sunday in Denver.

Bolts get zapped

The other team that really seemed to blow a great opportunity today was the San Diego Chargers.

They had a big lead early against the Jets and seemed in control of the game, but Philip Rivers threw two second-half interceptions and couldn’t make any big plays when his team needed him to deliver.

It was kind of shocking because Antonio Gates returned from injury and they also seemed to be running well against the Jets in the first half. But that was a great comeback by Rex Ryan’s team, and a big win that they definitely needed.