Michael Powell of The New York Times says Cam Newton Is a Man of Many Talents, but He Falls Short on Leadership

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked six times and fumbled twice against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Credit A J Mast for The New York Times
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked six times and fumbled twice against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Credit A J Mast for The New York Times

There was no humiliation to be found in Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s performance on the field at the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos defenders charged like banshees and werewolves, coming over and under and hurtling around the Panthers’ blockers. 

The young quarterback was sacked six times, fumbled when the man-mountain known as Von Miller tossed him to the turf. Some brilliant javelin throws to the side, Newton had a less than stellar night.

His humiliation came after the game, however, and it was self-imposed.

Newton, 26, an ebullient, intelligent, gifted quarterback, decided to act in his moment of truth like a 13-year-old. He slouched into the interview room late, well after a number of his teammates, rookies and veterans alike, had gamely answered one painful question after another.

He took a seat, a blue sweatshirt hood pulled low over his face. He made eye contact with no one. What did he make of the game? Was he surprised? How could he explain? The reporters’ questions arrived one after the other, not a surprise in the batch, some framed as gently as if offered by dimwitted therapists. For more than a minute, he stared at the floor, scratched his chin, curled his lip and sulked.

Anything he would do differently? “No.”

What did his coach tell the team? “He told us a lot of things.”

Did the Denver defense take away Carolina’s running lanes? “No.”

He offered a few more monosyllabic answers and then got up and walked away.

It was as if Newton was intent on taking his magical season, his jumping jacks and dabs and evident leadership, and poking a hole in his side. He let his charisma and leadership drain away, to be replaced by a soup of the sour and the petulant.

Newton did not put up a uniquely poor effort. This was no game for the ages, this penalty-strewn, butterfingered, butter-toed exercise of Denver outlasting its opponent. Peyton Manning, the ancient mariner of a Broncos quarterback, was reduced to gesturing and fakes, and little more. His team moved more or less not at all, the Broncos offense consisting of a mind-numbing set of runs that went nowhere and of Manning passes that went a yard or two, or three.

Manning’s throws resembled whiffle balls; one hung so softly in the air that defensive end Kony Ealy simply reached out and intercepted it with a single hand.

The Broncos’ defense was brilliant, except when its cornerback Aqib Talib was grabbing at an opponent’s face mask and trying to twist his head off like a mad farmer with a chicken. Talib received three flags in the first half and in most other sports would have been sent to the showers by the referees. “B.S. flags,” he called his penalties, adding, “One I just did on purpose, and I just had to show him.”

Then Talib talked about how special it was that his children watched him that night.

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Source: The New York Times | MICHAEL POWELL