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Panthers can be in running every game

Posted Oct 17, 2012

If the Panthers play to their potential the rest of the season, how many games on their schedule do you see as winnable? – Dave in Waxhaw, N.C.

All of them.

The Atlanta Falcons are the lone remaining unbeaten in the NFL, and they maintained that status in Week 4 with a near-miraculous home victory over the Panthers.

That, in my mind, shows that every opponent left on the Panthers' schedule is beatable, quite a statement for a 1-4 team. On the other hand, none of the remaining games qualify as sure wins, either.

Road games are always tough, and trips to Chicago (Week 8), Philadelphia on Monday night (Week 12) and San Diego (Week 15) look particularly daunting. The home schedule is no cakewalk either, with Dallas this week, Week 10 against Denver and the Week 14 rematch with Atlanta topping the list.

And being good enough to label games as winnable is one thing, but actually winning them is quite another, as the Panthers well know.



From what I've seen this season, there has been a lot of shotgun read option in the running game. I think this is good in moderation, but why not run more power sets with Cam Newton under center, Mike Tolbert at fullback, and DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart at running back (a more old-school approach)? – Benjamin in Richmond, Va.

While featuring the zone-read option last season, the Panthers ranked third in the NFL with 150.5 rushing yards per game. They rank a respectable 13th so far this season with 114 yards per game, having lost some of the element of surprise but having added Tolbert to the equation.

"It's not about adjustments," Newton said. "It's about sticking on blocks, runners running the football, protecting the ball and guys making plays. The zone read is not something that we created last year. It's something that's always been a part of the game football, and we're just trying as best we can because it is a good play for us with the talent that we have."



Bryan, Ron Rivera wants to find the team's identity. CAM NEWTON. That's their identity. I thought they drafted him to use him as a runner. This offensive coordinator should move heaven and earth to run Cam as much as possible. – Phil in Gaffney, S.C.

I understand that Cam Newton is a dynamic player and also the coaching staff has their own offensive philosophy, but all those hits will take their toll eventually. – David in Vine Grove, Ky.

The contrasting questions above demonstrate that reasonable minds can differ.

The numbers indicate that not much differs from last season to this season. Newton leads the Panthers with 209 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He's carrying the ball eight times a game, equal to his average as a rookie, and is again averaging slightly more than 40 yards a game.

Newton seems to be getting a few more rushes out of the zone-read option while scrambling a little less than he did in 2011. It would seem that a running play would put him in a little more traffic than a scramble, but the idea is that he doesn't keep the ball on an option play unless there is open space.

Newton is more prepared to take hits on run plays or scrambles than he is on a sack, and at 245 pounds, no defender can be that excited about bringing him down. The rules protecting quarterbacks are in his favor as well, so while injury is always a possibility, Newton is as equipped as possible to avoid one.



My husband's birthday is coming up, and he is going to attend the Panthers game on his birthday. Do you all do anything special like announce birthdays on the big screen? If so, what cost is associated with that? – Ann Onymous in Parts Unknown, N.C.

The question arrived in my inbox with a name, hometown and a date for her husband's birthday, but I don't want to be responsible for ruining the surprise.

Birthday greetings or other personalized messages can be displayed on the Bank of America Stadium sideline message boards. Cost is $125, which includes a keepsake photograph of your message.

All the details can be found via this link or by visiting Panthers.com, mousing over the Fanzone tab and selecting Scoreboard Greetings.

And happy birthday Mr. Onymous!
Panthers.com senior writer Bryan Strickland answers your questions. Fill out the form below to send it to him. The answer to your question could be posted on Panthers.com.
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