Carolina quarterback Cam Newton sits on the bench during the Panthers'… (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images )
Cam Newton laid a giant egg on national TV on Thursday night. That can't be debated.
The Carolina Panthers quarterback and reigning NFL rookie of the year threw three interceptions and finished with a career-low passer rating of 40.6 in a 36-7 loss to the New York Giants in his prime-time debut.
But it could have been worse for Newton. He completed 53% of his passes (16 of 30), which isn't great but is better than three of his outings during his much-heralded season a year ago. He also compiled 242 passing yards, which tops nine of his efforts from last season.
Also during the 2011 campaign, Newton threw four interceptions in a game once and three of them two other times.
Newton didn't have any touchdown passes for the first time this season Thursday night, something that happened three times last year. But he avoided what would have been only his second pro game without a touchdown at all by scoring on a one-yard run in the third quarter.
Now, for a quarterback who is known for his running ability, Newton may have been a disappointment to fans seeing him play for the first time. But even his six yards of rushing against the Giants was not a career low -- that happened two weeks ago with his four-yard effort in an opening-day loss to Tampa Bay.
In short, this is a lot of what we've already gotten from Newton 19 games into his pro career -- some eye-popping highlights and big fantasy football numbers but a lot of inconsistency along the way. And not a lot of wins, with only seven to his credit as a starter so far.
But obviously Newton has plenty of potential and he's shown us so much already, just not always all at once. He'll get another chance to show a prime-time audience he's the complete package in late November when the Panthers play the Eagles on "Monday Night Football."
Power rankings: 49ers top The Times' NFL list
Sam Farmer and Mark Thompson discuss the NFL
Is Tim Tebow the NFL equivalent to Kim Kardashian?