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Sports

Rejuvenated Panthers score in bunches, crush Dolphins 45-21
Offense potent on the ground, in air
 
Published Tuesday, November 14, 2017 1:00 am
by Ashley Mahoney

The Carolina Panthers have turned up the heat.

At 7-3, they may have swept past the Miami Dolphins 45-21 (4-5) in a national showcase game, but they are still chasing NFC South rivals New Orleans (7-2).

PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Carolina Panthers receiver Devin Funchess grabbed five passes for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns in their 45-21 win against Miami Monday.

“We just wanted to come out and impose our will, and play Panther football,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “It’s just like another game, but Monday night is just such a prestigious game. Especially for guys who are students of a game. The coverage leading up to a Monday night football game is unlike any other.”

Carolina’s 36 carries for 294 yards clinched a franchise first back-to-back 200-yard rushing games. They surpassed 40 points for the first time since Sept. 18, 2016 in a 46-27 win against San Francisco.

“We’re still scratching the surface with our potential and the things that we can do with this offense,” Newton said. “We still left a lot of plays out there.”

Newton has led the Panthers on the ground for a majority of the season. He finished with five carries for 95 yards, including a 69-yard run. That drive led to running back Christian McCaffrey grabbing a 2-yard pass from Newton for his second touchdown of the night.

Feature back Jonathan Stewart rebounded from his 11 carries, 19 yards and two fumbles game against Atlanta last week. He led the Panthers with 17 carries for 110 yards.

“I was definitely hard on myself,” Stewart said. “That was one of my first times really experiencing that type of deal. I’m just glad we won last week. It says a lot about the team that we have this year. There are a lot of special players on this team. Just understanding what it is like to play as a team and come out victorious. To know that I contributed to two fumbles last week, it stung me. You feel like you let your team down. It is a team sport, and turnovers are not going to give you the best chance to win games. I know that. I am a pro, and I have been in that position before, but it still sucks. I had to deal with that for the whole week. I had to play better and deal with it.”

Said coach Ron Rivera of Stewart: “He ain’t done. He’s a big part of what we do. He’s a part of the reason why we have success. He’s going to continue to work hard, and he’ll be productive for us, as will the other backs. I really like what Christian gave us, and I loved how when Cameron Artis-Payne (seven carries for 68 yards and one touchdown) got his touches made the most of those opportunities.”

The Panthers efficiency in the air matched their work on the ground. Newton completed 21-of-35 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Devin Funchess (five receptions for 92 yards) scored two touchdowns, and tight end Ed Dickson (three receptions for 33 yards) scored his first of the season.

“He has worked very hard for us,” Rivera said of Dickson. “It was good to see him get his chance to make his play for us.”

Dickson, who stepped in for tight end Greg Olsen, who broke his foot early in the season, has accepted his role as a “spark.”

“If I can be the spark then I’ll take it,” Dickson said. “[My touchdown] came off a Luke Kuechly interception, and we wanted to get points. We pride ourselves on getting seven points instead of three.”

Carolina heads into a bye week before heading to the New York Jets. While the respite arrived at an opportune moment, Rivera would rather maintain the momentum of their three-game winning streak.

“I’d like to keep rolling, but it came at a good time for us as well,” he said. “Our guys earned a good break.”

 

 

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