Can the Broncos stop Cam Newton, er, the Panthers?

 Cam Newton. Photograph by Keith Allison.

 Cam Newton. Photograph by Keith Allison.

A good defense stops a good offense like good pitching stops good hitting – or so running quarterback Quinn Novak wonders in my forthcoming novel, “The Penalty for Holding.”

Anyone who thinks that, he reasons, has never considered Alexander the Great taking it to the Persians in 331 B.C.

And indeed, while the Denver Broncos’ defense surely stopped Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the American Football Conference Championship, that defense is going to be hard-pressed to stop the Carolina Panthers’ electrifying running game as encapsulated by their QB Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50 Feb. 7.

Much has been made of the rivalry between the Broncos’ Peyton Manning and Brady – their 17 matchups, their complementary lives because although they are both classic pocket-passers, they are perceived differently. Manning is an Everyman doing lucrative insurance commercials; Brady, a glamour boy in print ads that interestingly do not pay as well. (But still pay handsomely. It is, as The New York Times once noted of a wealthy community’s dispute with a country club, a case of “the haves versus the have mores.”)

But for all their old-fashioned star quality, both Manning and Brady have been eclipsed by Newton’s law, so to speak. Simply put, Newton is everything Brady and Manning are not and that QBs are not supposed to be – a running quarterback who exercises the read option. He passes, he feints, he runs, he hurls himself into the end zone. He leads not just by throwing but by doing. And in so doing, he galvanizes his teammates.

He’s what I’ve tried to capture in my QB, Quinn. The only difference is that Newton is allowed to be what he is, a thrilling running quarterback, where in my book what Quinn is becomes a source of conflict for himself and others.

Just as the notion of the running quarterback has been elsewhere in the NFL. You have to wonder, if the Redskins had let Robert Griffin III be himself, if the San Francisco 49ers hadn’t tried to “fix” Colin Kaepernick, then maybe we’d be talking about two more running quarterback success stories.

I’m not trying to make excuses for Colin and RG III. I’m just saying.