The Carolina Panthers played great in their 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Cam Newton enjoyed one of his best career games after a week when he received his most blistering criticism. That shouldn't be lost in the stunning ending to the game, including Newton's fumble.
We'll hear way too much about Newton's body language this week, and not enough about his sensational play.
"There's no finger pointing in this game, especially not on this team," Newton said via the Charlotte Observer. "So if you expect me to point somebody out, or do this, if anything you can point the finger at me."
On his last play, a third-and-one where Newton fumbled: "I clearly had the first down, but I have got to hold onto the football. ... I failed."
Newton continues to lead the league in yards-per-attempt. (He averaged 9 yards-per-throw on Sunday.) He was very efficient against Atlanta and had a record day on the ground. He was also a little defiant, performing his usual Superman touchdown celebration after it was criticized locally last week.
The end of the game included a lot of possible goats by the Panthers. Safety Haruki Nakamura had an absolutely brutal day, and gave up the decisive long pass to Falcons receiver Roddy White. Elias says Matt Ryan game-winning's drive vs. Panthers was the first in 20 years that started inside the five-yard line with less than a minute left and no timeouts.
"It was the kind of loss that scars the soul -- a preposterous, humbling, devastating defeat that Panthers fans will remember not only in 2012 but also in 2032," wrote Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer.
We agree. This loss changes the shape of this Panthers season and the NFC South playoff race. Just don't pin it on Newton.Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.