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Notes: Rivera, Newton grow together in year three


CHARLOTTE – Head coach Ron Rivera's trust in quarterback Cam Newton is clear.

"I most certainly have hitched my wagon to Cam," Rivera said.

And that bandwagon keeps gaining momentum.

Newton completed 16-of-24 passes for 273 yards and one touchdown in Sunday's 30-20 victory over the New York Jets. He finished with a passer rating of 118.9 – his sixth game with a rating of more than 100 this season.

On Monday, Rivera was asked where he's seen the most growth in Newton's game.

"I think the way he has handled our offense and the decision making; him trying to distribute the ball," Rivera said. "Different guys are having a number of catches."

Newton spread the ball around to six different receivers with four players having at least four catches each. In addition, five players had a least one carry against the Jets. Running back DeAngelo Williams led the Panthers with 81 rushing yards on 15 carries.

"So he led the team instead of Cam. We're back on track," Rivera said. "If (Cam) has to run the ball, he'll run the ball and he'll help us. If not, he knows that he can hand it off, and we have a lot of faith in our running backs."

It all goes back to Newton trusting his teammates to make plays.

"I think the thing about him not putting the whole team on his shoulders (has been a big sign of growth)," Rivera said. "He understands he's got teammates and he doesn't have to do it by himself. That's been important growth for him.

"And his involvement in game-planning. Sitting down and talking with the coaches and talking about what he's comfortable with and what he feels good about."

Lastly, Rivera applauded the confidence and resilience Newton continues to show when adversity strikes.

"We don't see him putting his head down," Rivera said. "We see him trying to engage, interact and try and find the things that we can do next time we get out there. That's the growth we need to see and the growth we are seeing."

LEARNING FROM DECEMBER: Growth was a buzzword during Rivera's Monday press conference, and its use extended beyond Newton.

Rivera applied the term to Carolina's success in December the previous two seasons. Despite being out of the playoff race, the Panthers went 4-0 in 2012 and 3-2 in the last five games of the 2011 season.

"They meant growth," Rivera said of those wins in December. "It was learning how to be a pro.

"That's what those first two years were about in December – we were growing as a football team."

IN IT TOGETHER: Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes singled out the Panthers secondary as Carolina's weak link on defense last week.

In doing so, Holmes motivated the entire locker room.

"It helped to illuminate one of the things we've talked about, and that's that we are a team," Rivera said. "If somebody is going to pick on a member of the team, they are going to pick on the whole team. If they are going to fight one of us, they fight us all."

INJURY UPDATES: Rivera reported no significant injuries from Sunday's game.

Newton stubbed his toe at the end of the first half, and Rivera reiterated that it isn't considered serious. "The thing on Cam was not that big a deal," Rivera said.

Safety Mike Mitchell suffered a shoulder strain. "It's one he's had problems with before," Rivera said. "Just a little tweak on that."

Rivera added that the team will re-evaluate running back Jonathan Stewart's MCL injury on Wednesday as planned.

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