There's a silent epidemic plaguing today's premier young quarterbacks. They have a superhero complex. It goes beyond just trying to do too much rather than taking the simple gain or their unwillingness to slide when scrambling past the line of scrimmage and preserve their bodies. RGIII’s locker room collection of superhero figurines and Superman socks, cape included, are a glaring reminder that he hasn’t entirely outgrown his childlike ways yet.
Carolina’s Cam Newton takes it a step further and considers himself Superman on the gridiron. After every touchdown he scored in the past three seasons, Newton's pantomiming Clark Kent ripping off his shirt to expose the S on his chest has become his trademark.
His physical dimensions, athletic feats and origin story are like something out of a comic book. He’s 6-5, 240 pounds, runs a 4.5 40, won a JUCO national title, topped off his collegiate career with an FBS national title in his first season as a starter and then became the No. 1 overall pick. He can outrun cornerbacks, leap over defenses in one bound and bowl over linebackers.
He feels young and invincible. In reality, Newton is still learning how to fly and he’s been hiding behind his Justice League defense for much of the season. Ironically, he’s thrown for more touchdowns and won more games this season after he cut back on his passing responsibilities to let the defense do the heavy lifting.
While Newton did make vast improvements this season and finally exorcised his comeback demons, there are still mental aspects of the game that he hasn’t fully developed.
Both of Newton’s interceptions were poor decisions and cost Carolina points. His second interception into coverage ended the Panthers comeback bid and was emblematic of his sophomoric tendency to thread the needle into airtight coverages.
In comic book lore, lead blocks Superman’s X-ray vision and neutralizes the sun’s radiation which give him his superhuman abilities. Conversely, Newton hasn’t shown the capacity to matriculate the football down the field past the Niners lead defense. His field vision could use a little work as well. In the red zone, San Francisco stiffened up to adamantium levels.
On two forays inside the one-yard line Newton during the first half, Newton was unable to punch the ball into the end zone.
Carolina's inability to score a touchdown after running eight plays inside the San Francisco 10-yard line points to an obvious deficiency in their run blocking and the talent available in their stable of well-compensated running backs.
Andrew Luck showed his youth Saturday throwing four picks. Newton’s been in the league a year longer than the Colts quarterback, but you’ve got to put things in perspective. He’s also four months younger.
The Niners are still on a mission to avenge their 29-3 Week 3 thumping at Seattle’s CenturyLink field before they can concentrate on redressing the AFC representative.
Between the shadows of Bank of America Stadium, San Fran’s Avengers made Carolina’s Justice League defense league defense eat the cake.
San Fran’s Kaep’ed Crusader came out looking to prove that Marvel beats DC Comics when it truly matters. After last week’s win over Green Bay in the Wild Card round, Kaepernick offered a glimpse into his additional motivations for beating the Panthers besides going to the Super Bowl.
“We owe them,” Kaepernick said last Sunday after being asked for his initial thoughts about the Panthers rematch.
Not much changed for Newton from their first meeting. The offense scored 10 points to match its output from their previous meeting and the Panthers pass rush put the squeeze on Kaepernick. The box score doesn’t tell the story, however, the availability of Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis was the difference against Carolina’s secondary on this occasion.
Crabtree and Davis combined to catch just four passes for 37 yards, but their mere presence rolled coverages away from Boldin. In turn, Boldin caught 8-of-12 targets for 136 yards while Kaepernick came out throwing a season-high 24 first half passes. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info Department, Kaepernick went 6 of 8 for 136 yards on passes that traveled than 10 yards. Kaepernick went 0 of 6 on those passes in Week 10 against Carolina, including an interception and one that was dropped.
Half of Boldin’s catches came after halftime courtesy of Kaepernick’s only second half throws, but Jim Harbaugh grounded the passing game for a good reason. On 11 of their 26 dropbacks in the first half, Kaepernick was pressured. Back in Week 10, Kaepernick locked onto his receivers too often and when they weren’t, he paid the consequences by getting sacked six times.
While Newton looked more like Hancock than the Man of Steelo during his sloppy performance, Kaepernick donned the red cape for San Francisco, then mocked Newton’s Superman celebration in the end zone after scoring on a touchdown run.
Two months ago, the city of San Francisco and the Make-A-Wish foundation garnered national attention after transforming into Gotham City to accommodate a five-year-old leukemia patient’s request to be Batman for a day.
If Kaepernick pulls off a repeat performance against Seattle in one week, The City By The Bay can prep for a parade on a larger scale in February. I don’t normally endorse grown men like Shaq and Dwight Howard arguing over who’s the real Superman, but Kaepernick lived up to his superhuman pedigree Sunday. After another pair of wins Kaepernick can don any costume he wants.