Scott Fowler

Head over heels: Cam Newton’s flipping TD was a stunner

Cam Newton discusses his flip into the end zone

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton talks about his flip into the end zone for a touchdown during third quarter action vs the Houston Texans on Sunday.
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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton talks about his flip into the end zone for a touchdown during third quarter action vs the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Oh no, he didn’t!

Oh yes, he did.

That was the collective reaction Sunday at Bank of America Stadium when Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made one of the most spectacular plays of his NFL career, scoring on a 2-yard quarterback draw by doing a full front flip into the end zone over a hapless defender.

It was the most gasp-inducing moment of an uneven but ultimately successful Sunday for the Panthers, who edged Houston 24-17 in their home opener to move to 2-0.

“My heart was in my socks,” Newton said of the play. “As I was flipping, I was like, ‘Hey, I wonder how this is going to end?’ And then I’m coming down and said, ‘Hey, I can stick this!’”

As I was flipping, I was like, ‘Hey, I wonder how this is going to end?’ And then I’m coming down and said, ‘Hey, I can stick this!’

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on his flipping touchdown Sunday

Those kinds of plays are why Carolina signed Newton to a $103 million contract extension in the offseason. Newton accounted for all three Carolina touchdowns Sunday – throwing perfect strikes of 25 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. and 36 yards to Philly Brown for the other two.

But it was the flip that everyone was flipping out about later.

“He’s probably the only quarterback in the league who can do that,” Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said. “That’s obvious. When you have a quarterback run designed for the goal line, and you block everybody but the one guy you can’t block, and then the quarterback jumps over him, it’s hard to game plan for that.”

Said Ginn: “You don’t see a lot of guys 6-foot-6 who are that athletic who play football. You see them play basketball or run track or something. For a guy to be a quarterback and to do something I can’t do is amazing.”

To be fair, Newton ultimately did not stick the landing. Although he hurdled free safety Rahim Moore cleanly, while in the air he was hit by defensive end Jared Crick. He came down a bit awkwardly on a foot and a knee before springing up and doing his Superman celebration.

It was especially appropriate this time, since he had just finished flying.

“Superman, huh?” Panthers cornerback Josh Norman said. “He went up and over and almost landed on his feet! Hey that’s our guy.”

Said Olsen of Newton: “I told him the Russian judge gave him a 3, but everyone else gave him a 10.”

Center Ryan Kalil was right next to Newton, but was blocking and didn’t see the flip live. When Kalil came to the sideline, though, and heard the buzz that wouldn’t stop throughout the stands and listened to teammates saying, “You have to see this,” he looked up at the scoreboard replay. He was awed like everyone else.

I had an exchange with Newton in his press conference after the game that went like this.

Q. Why did you flip over the safety instead of trying to run him over?

A. “Well, I think you would have had something to say if I tried to run him over, too.”

Q: But wasn’t the degree of difficulty higher on a flip?

A. “Well, not necessarily. My thinking is there’s an imaginary line right there, and if I cross the plane with it, with the ball, it’s a touchdown. Flip, no flip, fumble, no fumble, as long as I get across the plane with the ball. ... I kind of eyed the safety and he was gearing up, scrunching his face like that (Newton then made a squinty face). I didn’t want to read in The Charlotte Observer the next day that Cam has to be smarter running. So I just gave you all an extra thing to write about.”

That he did, and put in a plug for the newspaper as well. Thanks for both, Cam.

Newton threw for 195 yards Sunday, ran for 76 and overcame several key dropped passes (again) for a victory.

As for the flip itself: It only tied at No. 1 for the best flip Newton has ever done in the NFL.

In 2012, he finished a 72-yard touchdown run against Atlanta with another front somersault into the end zone. The one Sunday was over a defender intent on inflicting harm; the one three years ago was just a giddy celebration of making it into the end zone.

On the other hand, the 72-yarder came after running at a full sprint for most of the field. In terms of difficulty, I would rate them as evenly impossible for anybody like you or me.

“I always wanted a trampoline,” Newton said.

On Sunday, he invented his own.

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