Patriots vs. Panthers: Monday morning review (Tuesday edition)

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Night Football promised to be one of the year's best games, and it didn't disappoint.

The Carolina Panthers defeated the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. That sounds pretty good, I think I'll say it again. Your Carolina Panthers stood tall at home and handed the New England Patriots their third loss of the season.

As great as the win feels, I'm more excited for Cam Newton. He's endured endless piles of BS and criticism about his play extending far beyond normal evaluation. Newton needed a signature win on national TV to show people why it's a tossup between Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Newton for the league's best young quarterback -- and he outplayed Tom Brady on football's largest stage. Cam 2.0 was shown off all to see, and it was a thing of beauty.

It wasn't Newton's highest yardage game, or his best quarterback rating -- but this was his most complete passing game. You could nitpick a few throws, but on the Greg Olsen touchdown he led a drive with 7-for-7 passing, 81 yards and the score. It's tempting to say "this is on another level," but Newton has redefined what his level is, this kind of drive is wholly possible now.

Most analyses of this game will focus on the final play, so I'll spare you. All I'll say is that I felt it was a bad call, but also a fascinating opportunity to see a quarterback lose it when he didn't get a call after a career littered with getting the benefit of the doubt.

Glass half full...

This team has managed to catch lightning in a bottle. The players-only meeting that happened after the Arizona Cardinals game will go down as one of the defining moments if franchise history -- and nobody but the players saw it.

Thomas Davis better head to the Pro Bowl this season. No player is more deserving of being recognized, and he had another stellar game on Monday night with 17 total tackles. Davis is an inspirational player and would have won the comeback player of the year if he wasn't up against Peyton Manning in 2012.

The entire receiving corps is on another level this season. Brandon LaFell is stepping up at the right time, Ted Ginn makes the most of his receptions and Steve Smith, well, he's still Smitty. Newton's evolution deserves to be talked about, but none of it is possible without the group around him.

Star Lotulelei was amazing, and Monday night's game was probably the best of his rookie career. The sack was nice, he had another quarterback hit and plays died when they were ran at him. He is the centerpiece of the defensive line, and will stay there for the next decade.

Glass half empty...

Charles Johnson, please be okay.

Overall outlook

The hardest part of this stretch is over, and the schedule gets a touch easier from here. The Dolphins and Buccaneers are both easily-winnable games before the slug-fest with New Orleans.

Carolina has a full game lead in the wild card race and there are six games to play. This is going to be fun to watch.

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