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‘I’m back!’: Cam Newton energizes Carolina Panthers’ playoff hopes – Carolina Panthers Blog

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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cam Newton, a huge smile beaming from underneath his helmet, playfully walked a few feet on his knees after his eighth and final play of Sunday’s 34-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

It wasn’t quite like walking on water, but after what the quarterback showed in his first game back for the Carolina Panthers, it almost felt like he could.

“God is working in my life right now,’’ Newton said.

Newton scored on his first two plays, a 2-yard run and a 2-yard pass, to give Carolina a quick 14-0 lead. But it was the energy the 32-year-old brought to the field that was just as big as his playmaking.

That’s something the stoic Sam Darnold, even during a 3-0 start, didn’t bring and likely never could. That’s something P.J. Walker — who is expected to turn the reins of the offense over to Newton next week when Carolina (5-5) takes on the Washington Football Team (3-6) — can’t do after only two NFL starts.

Newton brought the fun back to the Carolina offense, something that could propel them to a playoff spot if the league’s second-ranked defense continues to do its part.

“It was so much fun the moment Cam got here,’’ said wide receiver Robby Anderson, whom Newton dragged into his postgame news conference to make sure he wouldn’t be the last person on the bus. “To come to Carolina, and then the brother come back, it’s like a dream come true.’’

Newton’s Hollywood-like return could be topped only if he leads the Panthers to a win this week against Washington and coach Ron Rivera, who coached him for all nine seasons (2011-2019) in his first stint with the Panthers — and then to the playoffs.

One of the things Rivera always liked about his former quarterback was the way he kept the game fun, which kept those around him loose.

The Panthers needed loosening up, at least offensively. Darnold seldom, if ever, showed much emotion. Newton exudes emotion, and that was evident Sunday when he ripped off his helmet after his first touchdown and began screaming “I’m back!’’ repeatedly.

He showed it again after the game, as he ran around the stadium wall slapping the hands of Carolina fans who made the long trip to Arizona.

The Panthers hope to feed off that energy to make a run at the playoffs, where they haven’t been since 2017, when Newton was healthy and playing well. They need that energy to make a run.

“Just him being himself and bringing the juice and energy that he brings helps this team a lot,’’ Walker said. “It helps us all relax, get comfortable and play great football.”

The Panthers are currently the seventh seed, and they are only a game and a half behind Tampa Bay in the NFC South after everyone else in the division lost Sunday.

Their next three opponents – Washington (3-6), Miami Dolphins (3-7) and Atlanta Falcons (4-5) – all have losing records. The Panthers host Washington (1 p.m. ET, FOX) and Atlanta at home.

Win all three, and the Panthers would be 8-5 heading into their bye, giving them a week to rest up for a tough stretch run against the Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints and two games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Then anything could happen.

The Bucs, after falling to Washington on Sunday, have lost two straight. Buffalo recently lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Panthers already have a home win against the Saints.

“We know we can be special,’’ running back Christian McCaffrey said. “It’s just a matter of going out there and executing every week.’’

Executing consistently will be Newton’s challenge moving forward. He’ll be called on to know most of the offensive playbook by Sunday, not just the few short-yardage plays he was called on to make against Arizona.

Consistency wasn’t Darnold’s strong suit. He made more mistakes than big plays. Newton, in prove-it mode for a contract next season, can be the dynamic player coach Matt Rhule hasn’t had his first season and a half.

Part of being dynamic is bringing energy.

“He’s got a ton of energy,’’ Rhule said.

Newton also brings a winning attitude, something Darnold couldn’t because he didn’t consistently win with the New York Jets or this season at Carolina.

Newton was the 2015 league MVP, and he knows what it’s like to reach the Super Bowl and play in big games.

“He came into my office, and he told me, ‘This is all going to be about winning,’’’ Rhule said as he recalled his conversation with Newton on Thursday night after the quarterback signed a deal that could pay him up to $10 million the rest of this season. “I’ve watched him on TV. I know that Cam is a competitor. I think the challenge to the rest of our team was: It’s not about one guy, it’s about everybody.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’re excited [to have Cam here]. I kind of knew he would bring that energy, and he did.”

Newton’s energy lasted all the way to the final moment of his news conference Sunday when he grabbed Anderson by the shoulder, posed for a selfie with him and left shouting the team mantra: “Keep pounding!’’

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Dallas Cowboys haven’t asked me to sit vs. New Orleans Saints

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FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott does not want to take a game off despite a bruised right knee.

“No one’s came to me and asked me to rest,” Elliott said Sunday as the Cowboys opened up preparation for Thursday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

If they do, Elliott said he would listen.

“I’ve just got to go with what they believe is best for the team,” he said.

Elliott said he has been dealing with the injury since banging it in the Oct. 3 win against the Carolina Panthers.

A day after the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, coach Mike McCarthy expressed concern for Elliott’s health after Elliott had just 25 yards on nine carries. The running back has not topped 51 yards in his last four games, the lowest-output of his career.

“It’s that time of year,” McCarthy said. “Zeke’s running style is ferocious. He gives a pounding and he takes some hits. We need to evaluate that and this week we’ll see what the preparation looks like for him.”

A source told ESPN the Cowboys will consider providing Elliott some time off to heal, including the possibility of holding him out of Thursday’s game. The source does not believe placing Elliott on injured reserve is a consideration at this time. That would require him Elliott to miss at least three games.

The Cowboys have scaled back Elliott’s snaps in the last four games to help manage the injury. He has played 164 of 280 offensive snaps (58.5%) after playing in 379 of 451 snaps (84%) in the first seven games of the season.

Elliott has missed just one game in his career because of injury (calf strain last December vs. the San Francisco 49ers). He was held out of the season finales in 2016 and ’18 because the Cowboys’ playoff position was set, and he was suspended for six games in 2017.

“He’s the ultimate competitor,” right guard Zack Martin said. “We see it on a day in, day out basis and I think everyone is seeing it. He takes great pride in being there for his teammates and doing whatever he can in his power to help this team win. For me, he’s one of the top competitors I’ve been around, and he’s going to keep doing that.”

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Follow live: Lamar returns for Ravens in AFC North showdown vs. Browns

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Groin injury ends Randall Cobb’s most productive day since his return to Green Bay Packers

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Randall Cobb‘s most productive day since his return to the Green Bay Packers this season ended at halftime of Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Cobb was ruled out at the start of the second half because of a groin injury.

He set a season high for receiving yards in the first half with 95 on four catches, including a 7-yard touchdown that was his fifth score of the season. Previously on that drive, Cobb had a 43-yard reception to move the Packers into the red zone. It was not immediately clear when Cobb suffered the injury. He muffed a punt in the second quarter but stayed in the game.

The Packers traded for Cobb this past summer at the request of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Cobb played for the Packers from 2011 to 2018. They let him go in free agency, and he spent one season each with the Cowboys and Texans.

The Packers finally had their full complement of receivers back with the return of Allen Lazard from a shoulder injury. It lasted for one half.

Cobb’s previous best game came in Week 4, when he caught six passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

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