CHARLOTTE – Quarterback Cam Newton knows from recent experience how capable he and his teammates are of putting together a run.
He also knows from the eight-game winning streak the Panthers produced last season that a run in the NFL is more of a marathon than a sprint.
"That run is going to start Monday night, but we're not looking to win our last seven games. We're just trying to win our next one," Newton said. "For me and a lot of the players, we know that the schedule favors a lot of things for us, but we've got to take the binoculars off and just look at the reality of what's right in front of us and make the most of that opportunity."
The NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles are what lie ahead of a Panthers team that has lost three consecutive games to fall from the NFC South perch for the first time this season. Newton hasn't played his best football during the drought but continues to pursue the consistency he craves on a daily basis.
He can't get there alone.
"It's easy to try to put it on one guy and say, 'Hey, fix it,' but it's a combination of things," head coach Ron Rivera said. "This is a team game. We as a team have to do everything together, have to trust one another and make sure we're where we're supposed to be.
"Part of it is delivering the ball where it needs to be, but part of it is catching the ball, running the routes you're supposed to and protecting the quarterback."
The good news, Newton said, is that he and his teammates all want the same thing and know it's within their reach.
"I just want to win. No matter if I play good, bad or indifferent, I just want to see this team excel," Newton said. "With this team, I don't see a lot of guys moping around saying, 'Whoa is me.' It's more about optimism. It's about playing the next game, knowing that we still haven't put that great game together that we know we're capable of.
"We're past due for a game that proves we are who we thought we were."
RETURN TO FORM? Wide receiver Philly Brown (concussion) practiced fully for the second consecutive day Friday, but Rivera said he hasn't been cleared to play just yet.
"He still has to finish the protocol," Rivera said. "Practicing is part of the protocol."
Prior to his injury against Green Bay in Week 7, Brown's primary role was on special teams as kickoff and punt returner. Wide receiver Brenton Bersin has served as his replacement the last two games.
Rivera said the return man must also contribute on offense, and Brown's uncertain status most of the week has made it difficult to game-plan with Brown in mind. Rivera said Brown would reclaim his role as return man if has time to fit into the game plan.
"It's can we adjust, can we fit it in and will he be ready in time?" Rivera said. "You can't just have a guy where (returning kicks) is the only thing he's going to do. That's the reasoning behind it."
SPECIAL MOMENT: Linebacker Jason Williams, a special teams standout, has been pleased with the way the units have performed so far this season.
But come Monday, Williams is hoping for something beyond solid. He's hoping for something spectacular.
"We've been itching for one of those for a few weeks now," Williams said. "Coach Rivera always says that special teams should be responsible for four wins each year. We had a big play against Chicago but haven't really done anything too big in the kicking game.
"It's about time for us to step up and change the game. It's not like we've let the team down. We've been real consistent, but we haven't had a big flash."
In the Panthers' last victory in Week 5 versus Chicago, Brown opened the scoring with a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown when he made a heads-up play to pick up a loose ball. In Week 2 against Detroit, special teams virtually sealed a game when Ben Jacobs – who is tied with fellow linebacker A.J. Klein for the team lead with six special teams tackles – forced a fourth-quarter fumble on a kickoff return that kicker Graham Gano recovered.
Last season in Week 15 against the New York Jets, Williams turned the game around with a punt block. Williams would love a repeat against Philadelphia, a team he played two games for early in the 2012 season before rejoining the Panthers.
Williams is still friends with some Eagles linebackers but most remembers his short stay for getting to know wide receiver Jason Avant and discovering that they grew up in the same neighborhood in southside Chicago.
Senior writer Bryan Strickland and staff writer Max Henson contributed to this report.