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Notebook: Early run success something to build on heading into bye

Chuba Hubbard

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Panthers center Bradley Bozeman's answer was short and to the point.

When asked if the early success running the ball was more in line with the kind of team they could be and wanted to be, he looked straight ahead.

"Yes," Bozeman replied.

The Panthers rushed for 108 yards on 25 carries — a respectable total considering they spent much of the second half trailing by multiple scores against the high-octane Dolphins. That included 19 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown for Chuba Hubbard, who got the bulk of the work in the injury absence of Miles Sanders.

It was their best running day since they had 154 yards on the ground in the opener in Atlanta, and was the closest thing to balance they've had in some time. Again, when the Dolphins got away from them in the second half, it was hard to sustain it (at a certain point you have to throw), but for a team looking for an offensive identity, it was a step in a direction they want to go.

"We know what kind of offense we are; we know the opportunities we have, we know what our strengths are weaknesses," Bozeman said. "We would love running the ball as an offensive line. So just trying to keep it downhill and really making defenses play you in the run game, we'll be able to take the shots over the top."

That was there Sunday, as they hit three pass plays of 20 yards or more and six of 15 yards or more, a departure from recent weeks when they focused on keeping things short and safe.

Panthers head coach Frank Reich talked about finding "balance" in the run game, and it clearly helped quarterback Bryce Young early.

"I know the coaches are going to have a lot of conversations about what we're good at, what we're not so good at, and the game plan going forward," Bozeman said. "I know this is a great coaching staff. I have no doubts about this coaching staff, and they're going to put together a good plan for us and kind of figure out what direction we need to go in."

For Hubbard, it was also his best game since last December when he had 125 yards against the Lions. And while he was encouraged by the numbers, he also didn't lose sight of the bottom line.

"I feel like every single week we've taken a step," Hubbard said. "But, obviously, the goal is to win the game. That's why we're here. That's why we work so hard. I mean, you could throw for 1,000 yards, you could run for 1,000 yards, you could break records, whatever. But if you don't get the win that doesn't really matter. . . .

"I feel like we've been taking a step in that direction every single week. The O-line did a great job, coach called the great runs and everyone's just running hard."

The Panthers could also be getting guard Austin Corbett back after the bye, further boosting their chances to re-establish the offensive line as a cornerstone, the way they were last year.

— The Panthers continued to stack up injuries, with Laviska Shenault Jr. leaving the locker room with a walking boot on his right foot. He left the game with an ankle injury in the first half, was carted to the locker room, and could not continue.

Also, linebacker Frankie Luvu (hip) and outside linebacker Yetur Gross-Matos (hamstring) left the game in the second half and didn't return, further testing the depth on defense.

They were already out there without signal-caller and captain Shaq Thompson, both starting safeties (Vonn Bell and Xavier Woods), and top cornerback Jaycee Horn, so every one of those hits a little harder.

"I mean, you get the injury bug that we've had this year," said defensive tackle Derrick Brown, who was questionable on this week's injury report himself.

"I mean, it's not an excuse, but it's an awful thing," Brown continued. "You know, it's not an excuse, but we've been hit with some unfortunate injuries. I mean, all those guys are still active in the defense. Even Shaq man, he's in the building, you know, still constantly doing his job being a leader for us.

"And, you know, it sucks. But we got the injury bug right now and, you know, hopefully we'd be able to bounce back, get some guys back after the bye week and get back to work."

Reich also mentioned guard Calvin Throckmorton (calf) when he ran down the post-game injury list.

— Outside linebacker Brian Burns, who like Brown was questionable coming into the game with an ankle injury, had a bit of a limp after the game. He'll gladly take the week off to get well, but said it's nothing that would have prevented him from playing next week.

"I would have been ready if we were playing this Sunday," he said.

And like the rest of them, he said he'd reflect on the start of season, and how things might have been different for them.

"Well, I would say missed opportunities," Burns said when asked about the common themes. I feel like, you know, there's a lot of opportunities for us to take that next step, take that jump. So it's like I said, it's a good time to reset, restart, you know, get on a streak."

View all the action from the Panthers' game in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins.

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