Cam Newton skies over the goal line for a TD. (Mel Evans / AP)

Remember this Cam Newton — the running, passing, smiling Cam Newton who was the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year?

That Cam Newton was back Monday night, passing for 306 yards and two touchdowns, running for another two and generally breaking out of a season-long funk as the Carolina Panthers beat the Philadelphia Eagles 30-22.

“The thing is we put a lot on his plate early in the year and we’ve taken some of it back. He’s reacted to that very well,” Coach Ron Rivera said (via the Charlotte Observer’s Joseph Person). “We’re starting to find the balance that we need with him; the last few weeks he’s been outstanding. He’s given us chances to win, and this is the first time we as a team took advantage of it.”

It may be too late for Rivera, whose team is 3-8. But it certainly is not for Newton, who will remain in Charlotte no matter who is coaching the team in 2013.

“He’s leading the team. He’s on the sidelines talking with the O-line, talking with receivers. He’s doing the things we all wanted him to do. In the huddle, he’s saying the right things,” left tackle Jordan Gross said.  “And I’ll tell you what, the guy’s a tough guy because he takes some shots and he gets up and keeps on swinging. If he can play this way and lead like he is, the sky’s the limit for him.”

In his Monday night debut, Newton played without a turnover for the second straight game. After passing for over 4,000 yards as a rookie, he came into Monday night’s game with only nine TD passes and four rushing TDs. At times this season, he has seemed petulant and withdrawn as his production has dropped off.

“I think my best game is still to come,” Newton said. “I’m still focused on getting better each and every week.”

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