Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers were dancing, celebrating and handing out footballs on Sunday afternoon against Washington, lifting their record to 10-0 with a 44-16 drubbing of their visitors.
Newton threw a career-best five touchdowns, each to a different receiver, against zero interceptions. Four of those TDs were in the first half, a franchise record.
It was a great capper to a week that saw much discussion about his love of dancing after touchdowns and celebrating first downs, a debate touched off by an "open letter" to Newton written by a Nashville mother who claimed to have been offended that her 9-year old daughter was subjected to Newton's dancing when he scored against the Titans (but she apparently had no issue with Tennessee players dancing when they sacked Newton).
By and large, the reaction to Newton's dancing was positive, with many agreeing with Newton: If defenses don't like to see him dance, they should keep him out of the end zone. His joie de football should be appreciated. Others, like the Nashville mother, have a problem with it, twisting themselves into pretzels as they try to explain why Newton is so offensive, while very few believed Carson Palmer screaming "suck it!" to the Seattle crowd was as well.
On Sunday, cameras caught Newton dancing during his warm-up session, and dancing on the sideline at the end of the game as he watched backup quarterback Derek Anderson finish off the win. He hit the dab on the tail end of a 9-yard run on third-and-8 at the end of the first half.
With each touchdown, either Newton or the teammate who caught it singled out a young fan in the stands, handing over the ball to the delight of the child.
And with the game in hand, Newton and several teammates had a message for anyone bothered by their dancing:
As the offense rolled, the Panthers' defense did more than its share: Washington had just nine first downs, converting 22 percent of its third-down chances and totaling fewer than 200 yards. Washington ran 47 offensive plays to Carolina's 75 and had a measley 14 rushing yards on 12 carries, a Carolina record for stinginess.
Carolina became the 16th team in NFL history to get to 10-0; not surprisingly, the first 15 all went to the playoffs, with 10 advancing to the Super Bowl. The Panthers are headed to Dallas for a Thanksgiving matchup; the Cowboys snapped their seven-game losing streak in Miami on Sunday.