2013 NFL Grades, Week 11: Cam Newton's big Monday moment

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

It'll be overshadowed by the controversial ending Monday night, but don't forget that Cam Newton grew up in a big way as the Panthers toppled the Patriots 24-20 in Charlotte.

Newton, on the biggest non-playoff stage you could ask for, stepped under center and marched the Panthers on an 18-play, 83-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to Ted Ginn and the Panthers moving a step closer towards an improbable playoff berth.

The defense did a superb job of limiting Tom Brady and the Pats in the first half, but it was Newton's play on offense that pushed Carolina over the top. He's maturing as a quarterback and maturing as a leader, as evidenced by his comments immediately after the emotional win.

"I'm not going to take all the credit. We're just 7-3 right now," Newton said afterwards. "This is what we have. Our mentality was going into it to do anything possible to have our team 7-3. We did it. We're celebrating tonight and we're looking forward to playing the Dolphins."

On that final drive, Newton went 5 for 8 for 57 pass yards and had 18 rushing yards. He gassed some of those throws -- adrenaline maybe? -- but Newton and the Panthers were methodical as they went down the field.

It wasn't just the final drive either, though the biggest criticism of Newton -- press conferences aside -- has been his late-game play. Perhaps the biggest highlight was Newton's remarkable third-down run where he evaded an impossible number of tackles for a huge first down:

That's the flash in his game. The substance is really starting to show however. For the first time in 37 games the Patriots didn't force a turnover. That speaks volumes for what the Panthers did Monday. Newton, once again, didn't produce big volume stats. But he completed 67.9 percent of his passes and averaged 7.9 yards per attempt.

The final drive against the Patriots was a microcosm of the steps he's taking as a quarterback.

TeamGradeAnalysis
Panthers 24, Patriots 20
BNot a bad effort from New England at all. The defense didn't create a turnover but it didn't give up too many huge plays. Tom Brady was sensational, particularly late in the game. Stevan Ridley's fumble was hugely costly. The offense lacked any real explosiveness for most of the game though.
A-Monster win for the Panthers. They're one back of New Orleans with two head-to-head games coming up. Cam Newton's developing into the quarterback everyone hoped he would be. The Panthers defense might be the best in the NFL.
Broncos 27, Chiefs 17
CCalling the Chiefs a fraud would be taking things too far. They're still a good team. But they're not built to play from behind. Alex Smith is a game manager. They blew two good scoring opportunities and that defense didn't manage to sack Peyton Manning once.
BGreat protection for Peyton Manning, who did what he does best. Montee Ball is starting to warm up as a runner and could be a factor down the stretch. The Broncos defense did a nice job bottling up Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs running attack.
Eagles 24, Redskins 16
C-Solid effort from the Redskins to try to come back: they were down big and brought it within a single possession. But this team has serious flaws and they're being exposed down the stretch.
B+The Eagles look like they're trying to be a legit contender. That defense isn't all world but Nick Foles is playing well and he doesn't make turnovers. LeSean McCoy crossed the 1,000 yard marker in Week 11.
Buccaneers 41, Falcons 28
FIn a battle for the NFC South basement the Falcons came up woefully short. They gave up 163 rushing yards to a third-string running back and made Mike Glennon look pretty good. The offense didn't get going until late. Lost season for Atlanta.
B+Bobby Rainey blew it up on Sunday, running for 163 yards and three touchdowns. The Buccaneers won their second-straight game and hopped the Falcons for the basement in the NFC South. Could Greg Schiano save his job?
Bills 37, Jets 14
FLaughable that the Jets are in the playoff hunt. They haven't won or lost two games in a row this season. And they got hammered by the Bills on the road coming off a bye week. Pretty inexcusable.
B+Efficient day for EJ Manuel when the Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller couldn't get the running game going. The defense intercepted Geno Smith three times and sacked him four times.
Bears 23, Ravens 20
C+Ray Rice is alive! He's the only reason the Ravens stayed in this game -- Joe Flacco had another below-average game and the defense couldn't slow down the Bears in overtime. Brutal loss for the defending Super Bowl champions with the weather delay.
B-Crazy game that was delayed nearly two hours because of stormy weather. Chicago nearly blew this one but managed to stop Baltimore and take over in overtime to pick up a win on a field goal from Robbie Gould.
Bengals 41, Browns 20
D+Any time Jason Campbell's attempting 56 passes in a game it's not a good thing. He did that Sunday and his three interceptions helped set up a lot of Cincy's points.
CMonster second quarter that featured 31 points propelled the Bengals to a victory. A pair of DST touchdowns helped in a big way as Andy Dalton and the offense didn't have to do too much legwork. (Dalton averaged 3.4 yards per attempt and still had three touchdowns.)
Raiders 28, Texans 23
B+Matt McGloin led Oakland to a road win in Week 11 against Houston. Roll that around in your head for a while.
FTalk about the low point of your season. The Texans gave up three passing touchdowns to an undrafted free agent, benched Case Keenum midway through this game and endured a Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson screaming match on the sideline. What a freaking mess.
Cardinals 27, Jaguars 14
BHave a day, Michael Floyd! The Cardinals put up with the pesky Jaguars and ended up hammering them pretty good to put themselves in prime playoff position. The defense dominated and Carson Palmer was strong. Still no rushing attack though.
DGood job, good effort from the Jags. They're just literally a step below a lot of other teams, talent-wise. Cecil Shorts is particularly unhappy right now too.
Steelers 37, Lions 27
C-No idea how Calvin Johnson can go from 179 receiving yards in the first half to catchless in the second half, but it happened. Matthew Stafford was really inaccurate early in this game but still managed to put up big numbers.
B+Sure looks like Ben Roethlisberger is taking the trade rumors personally doesn't it? And it actually kind of looks like the Steelers might creep back into the AFC North and playoff race if they keep winning.
Dolphins 20, Chargers 16
C-Huge AFC Wild Card matchup here and the Bolts find themselves on the wrong end of things now. Ryan Mathews had a massive game but Philip Rivers was sacked three times and the Chargers couldn't close. The defense needed to step up.
C+Massive win for Miami. It keeps them in the playoff hunt and should ease the circus surrounding the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin mess. Ryan Tannehill was "only" sacked four times Sunday.
Giants 27, Packers 13
C-Packers continue reeling without Aaron Rodgers. They kept this one close for a while but a Scott Tolzien interception was returned by Jason Pierre-Paul to seal things. The running game didn't show up at all on Sunday.
B+The Giants are, improbably, getting back into the playoff hunt. They've now won four straight games and are kind of creeping out there. Andre Brown really boosts their rushing game and Eli Manning's been making less mistakes during this stretch than early in the season.
Saints 23, 49ers 20
BIt looked like the 49ers were going to steal a win in New Orleans. Many people will argue they were wronged by the refs on an Ahmad Brooks hit on Drew Brees. They're still in position to grab a wild card in the NFC but their hold is getting tenuous and the schedule isn't easy.
B+Huge conference win and it was done in impressive comeback fashion. Drew Brees keeps building his MVP resume and the Saints defense continues to outperform everyone's expectations.
Seahawks 41, Vikings 20
D+What's the point of paying Josh Freeman if you're not going to play him? Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel struggled again. Adrian Peterson was bottled up. The Vikings never stood a chance in this one.
B+Just another devastating home victory for the Seahawks. Their defense was strong, Marshawn Lynch ran well and Russell Wilson is an under-the-radar MVP candidate.
TeamGradeAnalysis
Colts 30, Titans 27
BStrong second-half effort from the offense, particularly from Donald Brown, who ran the ball really well. Trent Richardson wasn't impressive, but Andrew Luck did Andrew Luck things, particularly in the second half. They flipped the script in about 50 seconds to start the second half.
CThey completely abandoned the run in the second after a dominant performance from Chris Johnson in the first half. The defense did nice work limiting the Colts passing game but a couple costly mistakes really torched the Titans in the second half.
 
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