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- Finishing strong: After a slow start to his second year, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is on pace to match many of his eye-opening stats from his rookie season.
Cam Newton is on a torrid pace and the Carolina Panthers are headed toward another strong finish they hope will save coach Ron Rivera’s job.
The second-year QB is in the best stretch of his young NFL career with 13 combined touchdowns and no interceptions in the past five games.
The suddenly hot Panthers (5-9) have won three of their last four and look for their first three-game winning streak since 2009 when they host the Raiders today. After a slow start, Newton is on pace to finish with numbers that in many categories are better than what he put up last season as the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. He’s thrown for 3,451 yards with 18 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He’s also run for a team-high seven TDs.
“He has really improved, especially with checking it down to the second read or dumping it off to the backs, or with getting the ball out of harm’s way and throwing it out of bounds,” Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. “Those are the things that quarterbacks can do to keep drives alive.
Oakland coach Dennis Allen said the Raiders are well aware of Newton’s hot hand.
And he knows the multi-dimensional 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback could present some issues for his defense, which has been spotty most of the season. Although the Raiders shut out Kansas City last week to snap a six-game losing streak, they still rank 30th in the league in points allowed (28.7) and 27th in yards passing allowed (248.3) per game.
“He’s been outstanding,” Allen said of Newton. “The way he runs their offense and explosiveness that he adds makes them extremely tough to defend.”
While Newton has given Carolina fans hope of late, Oakland’s season has been a struggle.
The Raiders (4-10) have beaten Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Kansas City twice.
They’ve made personnel changes throughout the building and Allen said it takes time to develop some cohesiveness. Injuries also played a factor in the losing streak.
But there have been some bright spots.
Carson Palmer needs 13 yards to join Rich Gannon as the only Raiders to eclipse 4,000 yards passing in season.
He’s thrown 22 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions for a solid QB rating of 85.
The Raiders have also found receiving weapons in tight end Brandon Myers and receivers Denarius Moore and rookie Rod Streater.
“Obviously the season hasn’t gone as well as we would have expected,” Allen said. “But I think we’ve continued to work and battle and the players understand what the process is and where we’re headed. The record hasn’t been what we wanted but they can see an end in sight.”