Coming off a concussion a few weeks ago, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he wouldn’t change the way he plays.
That seemed debatable after Newton matched a career low with two carries against New Orleans in his first game back from the concussion protocol. But Newton rushed seven times each in victories over Arizona and Los Angeles the past two games, equaling his career average for carries per game.
That said, as many times as Newton’s been hit in the pocket this season, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton and offensive coordinator Mike Shula are trying to limit his exposure in the run game. Newton made a point to slide on a couple of carries against the Rams rather than take hits.
“He gets it. He understands it. And so does Mike. We’re trying to be smart and judicious when we do expose him,” Rivera said Thursday. “He’s got to make those decisions, though, when we come down to it. And Cam will make the decision he feels is best to give us a chance. That’s just the way he is.”
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The Panthers struggled to run the ball against the Rams last weekend. But there could be more opportunities this week against Kansas City, which has the league’s sixth-worst run defense (allowing 124.5 yards per game).
Rivera said it will be important to run the ball against the Chiefs, in part to set up play-action passes.
But the Chiefs defense received a boost this week with the return of linebacker Justin Houston, who missed the first eight games following offseason ACL surgery.
Houston told Kansas City reporters he thinks he can play the entire game Sunday, adding: “I expect to do what I normally do – dominate.”