In the aftermath of Super Bowl 50, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been harshly criticized for appearing to hesitate instead of jumping on the loose football he had fumbled late in the 4th quarter. The Broncos recovered the ball, and on the ensuing drive C.J. Anderson found the back of the end zone to seal a Denver Super Bowl victory.
Why did Newton pause, when it appeared he had the best shot of recovering the football? Some, including head coach Ron Rivera, thought that the MVP quarterback was anticipating the ball would be tipped farther into the backfield; others thought that he had already accepted defeat.
The prevailing logic, though, was that Newton simply didn't want to get injured, and diving into a pile of linemen would put his safety at risk.
Here's the play. Note that Newton appears to pull up when he has a window to secure the football:
On Tuesday, Newton addressed the media and discussed his reasoning on the play more thoroughly. He revealed that his quarterback instincts took over, and he decided to hold off in order to avoid injury.
"I don't dive for one fumble, because the way my leg was, it could have been contorted in a way," Newton told the media. "You say my effort. I didn't dive down. I fumbled, that's fine. But at the end of the day, that game wasn't built off of, we didn't lose the game because of that fumble, I can tell you that."
Newton also brought up the efforts of other quarterbacks, seemingly as if asking why he is being singled out.
"I didn't get the fumble, but we can play tit-for-tat," Newton said. "I see numerous quarterbacks throw interceptions and their effort afterwards, they don't go."
Of course, Newton's explanation won't necessarily make Carolina fans feel better about the play — or the Super Bowl loss. Nor will it silence those who dislike Newton and have been outspoken in the days since the Panthers lost. But at least now the debate about why Newton didn't jump on the football — arguably the most important moment of the game — can be put to rest.
Here are Newton's comments, via the NFL Network:
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