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Stewart NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Posted Dec 23, 2009

Running back Jonathan Stewart has gone over 100 yards in two of the last three weeks. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)

CHARLOTTE -- Rushing for over 100 yards against a defense that had gone 36 games without permitting a triple-digit runner was significant enough. Doing it on Sunday Night Football, behind an offensive line that has lost both of its first-team tackles, with the other half of the team's running combination sidelined with an ankle injury ... all that made Jonathan Stewart's performance Sunday impossible to ignore.

Stewart on Wednesday became the first Panther to win NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors this season, earning the award for his 109-yard, two-touchdown game at the Vikings' expense.

"That's awesome," said quarterback Matt Moore. "A guy like that, he's a talented guy and can explode at any time. ... Credit him, credit the offensive line and everybody involved."

It was not Stewart's most prolific game -- a fortnight earlier he'd run for 120 yards against Tampa Bay -- but it was arguably his most effective, as he helped wear down Minnesota's defense as the game progressed, evidenced by his 48 yards on nine fourth-quarter carries, good for a 5.3-yard average.

With starter DeAngelo Williams nursing an ankle injury that sent him to the sideline late in the first quarter, Stewart stepped forward, handling 22 of the Panthers' next 27 carries after the injury.

Sunday's performance gave Stewart the fifth 100-yard game of his career. He'd rushed for over 100 yards in three consecutive wins over the Buccaneers, but prior to Sunday his only non-Bucs 100-yard effort had come last season against Detroit.

Stewart is the first Panther to win NFC Offensive Player of the Week plaudits since Williams did in Week 14 of the 2008 season, when he ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-23 win over Tampa Bay. But he wasn't on the practice field to hear head coach John Fox announce the award to the team; Stewart did not practice Wednesday, as has been the custom throughout the year because of an Achilles tendon problem that has lingered throughout the year.

"Unfortunately, he wasn't out here to hear about it, but (his teammates) will be able to talk to him about that when they get inside," Fox said.

Stewart needs 37 yards and three rushing touchdowns in the next two weeks to surpass his rookie totals in each category, and currently stands 198 yards from 1,000. If he hits the milestone mark, he would give the Panthers a pair of 1,000-yard runners for the first time in their history; Williams is already there with 1,117 yards, having gone into quadruple digits during the Week 12 loss to the New York Jets.