It is hard to believe the Panthers were 7-8-1 just a season ago, and somehow managed to win the sub-par NFC South Division.
The Panthers’ turnaround comes on the heels of a life threatening car accident involving superstar quarterback Cam Newton. On Dec. 9, 2014, Newton endured two transverse fractures in his lower back during a two car collision just outside of the Panthers stadium. The transverse process is the small bone which sticks out on both sides of the spinal vertebrae. It is the same injury Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo went through during the 2014 season. Newton was placed on a stretcher, transported to the hospital, treated and released. He returned to the team within a couple of days, but sat out the next game.
His quick return was quite shocking to those who followed the events closely, as the accident was described by witnesses as “gruesome and gut-wrenching.” According to eye witness accounts, Newton’s car flipped several times before landing on the passenger side door with the roof caved in.
A couple days following the accident, Newton addressed the media and contemplated his good fortune. “I’m looking at this truck and thinking, ‘someone’s supposed to be dead.’ I couldn’t stop smiling,” said Newton. “I’m just thankful to have breath in my lungs so I can breathe again. I’m on somebody’s fantasy team, and I think it’s the man upstairs.”
This writer thought poorly of the Panthers and has been critical of Newton, until this year. He has shown immense improvement in his maturity level and the ability to lead his team even when facing adversity. Newton threw for a career-best 35 passing touchdowns, over 3,800 passing yards and a career-low 10 interceptions while adding another 10 rushing touchdowns.
This sustained success is causing spectators and critics to pay attention.
The team has found a way to win and a major part of their success is due to the MVP caliber play of Newton. The fifth year pro has returned to elite form, despite almost being killed in his accident. Most people have seen the controversial touchdown celebrations on TV and think he’s simply immature. Fans don’t realize Newton is just enjoying playing the game of football; a privilege he almost lost last year.