Panthers Best Moment No. 19: Newton Shines in First Career Start

CHARLOTTE, NC - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) /

Newton Makes His First Appearance on the List

Welcome back to the Carolina Panthers’ Top-25 Moments list, thank you to those of you who have been keeping track of the list and continue to keep up.

If you missed our breakdown of the 20th best moment, which was the announcement of the expansion of the Hall of Honor, you can check it out right here.

Let’s get down to business with the next moment at No. 19: Cam Newton shines in his first start.

Newton Came into the Season as a Question Mark

In a quarterback-heavy 2011 NFL Draft, the Panthers took the bold choice of selecting Newton over many other quarterbacks in the draft. The Panthers were questioned throughout the offseason, especially since experts, including Mel Kiper Jr., thought they would take Blaine Gabbert with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Newton, despite being a Heisman Trophy winner and a National Champion in 2010, was followed heavily throughout OTAs and mini-camps, as many were gun-shy about quarterback following two deflating efforts put forth by Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore in 2010.

But after the team’s first game of the 2011 season against the Arizona Cardinals, the narrative on Newton changed.

Newton Came Out on All Cylinders

The rookie did not take long to make an impression, as he threw his first touchdown of this career in the first quarter and it was a doozy.

With 7:23 on the clock on a third and seven, Newton faced a blitz on his left side and delivered a strike to a wide-open Steve Smith, who caught the ball at the Cardinals’ 45-yard line and ran it the rest of the way for the score.

Newton, despite the impressive stat-line of 423 passing yards and three touchdowns, did not come out on top as the Panthers lost to the Cardinals 28-21 after a last-ditch pitch to running back Mike Goodson fell short on fourth and goal at the one-yard line.

You check out the NFL’s highlight package of Newton’s first start to relieve all the great moments from his first start at the bottom of this post.

A Start for the History Books

The former Tiger’s start, despite picking up the loss for the game, was a game for the ages in terms of rookie quarterbacks.

Newton shattered the rookie record of passing yards in a debut start, which was held previously by legendary quarterback Otto Graham. It’s also the second time in NFL history a rookie quarterback has thrown for more than 300 yards in a team’s season opener.

There is also this little nugget from ESPN’s Stats and Information department.

"It took Newton all of one game to have 422 passing yards, while the list of notable quarterbacks to never throw for that many yards in a game is like a Hall of Fame roll call. Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Jim Kelly, Bart Starr and Fran Tarkenton never threw for that many yards in a single game in their NFL careers.It’s the most passing yards Newton has had since leaving high school, surpassing the 369 yards he had against Trinity Valley Community College while he played at Blinn College."

The only record Newton didn’t break was the team record for most passing yards in a single game, which was obtained by Chris Weinke during a 2006 start against the New York Giants. In fairness though, Newton was just one yard short of the record.

Why It Ranks Here

Many Panthers are constantly split between Newton, some even looking to replace him with either Kyle Allen or whatever new quarterback enters the game to sub for the quarterback.

Beyond that, while Newton holds all the franchise records for passing save for yards in a single game, it remains to be seen if he will enter the realm of one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but if he can build on the strides he made last season before getting hurt, he will find his way into the conversation.

That’s it for this one, stay tuned for our pick for the 18th best moment in team history.