Rookie Newton already breaking records

604552.jpg

Rookie Newton already breaking records

From Comcast SportsNet

TAMPA, Fla. (AP)Cam Newton thinks the Carolina Panthers are capable of making a strong stretch run, building confidence for a promising future.

With the No. 1 overall draft pick growing up faster than most people considered possible, whos to argue with the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner?

Newton ran for three more touchdowns Sunday, setting an NFL single-season record for rushing TDs by a quarterback and pacing a 38-19 rout of the reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Panthers (4-8) have won two straight to double their victory total from last year. Though the success came against winless Indianapolis and the Bucs (4-8), whove dropped six in a row, Newton feels Carolina is jelling as a team.

In addition to putting together three scoring drives of 80-plus yards against Tampa Bay, the Panthers defense forced the Buccaneers to settle for four first-half field goals and didnt allow a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.

Im seeing a lot of maturity from this team, myself included. It gave us a lot of security in our minds, knowing that the defense is going to come out like they did and hold those guys to field goals. They had a great mentality, Newton said.

Youve got to win games in December, thats what the great teams do, the rookie added. Were not going to overlook anybody. I think we did enough of that earlier in the year. Weve got to take each game at a time, but most importantly each play at a time.

A trio of 1-yard scoring runs gave Newton 13 TDs rushing, one more than New Englands Steve Grogan had in 1976. He also had his first reception as a pro to set up Jonathan Stewarts first-quarter TD, then threw a 19-yard TD pass to Legedu Naanee to finish one of Carolinas three long scoring drives.

I wouldnt say its easier each week. Its a challenge each and every week, Newton said. The one thing Ive seemed to get is more comfortable. Dictating to the defense to some degree with your eyes, the pre-snap reads. The only difference in the NFL and college is the athleticism increases at each position.

Tampa Bay (4-8), which played in throwback creamsicle jerseys and white helmets bearing the logo of a winking pirate, has lost seven of eight following a 3-1 start. The Bucs had nine penalties to Carolinas two, and coach Raheem Morris lashed out at his team for what he described as undisciplined play.

I can take getting beat by a better football team. The foolish things that happened in that game, as far as penalties, some of the things that we caused, are just unacceptable, Morris said. We are not playing like a smart football team right now.

The coachs frustration peaked on the final play of the third quarter when linebacker Geno Hayes sacked Newton for a 4-yard loss only to have defensive tackle Brian Price flagged for unnecessary roughness. It was not clear what Price did to draw the penalty.

Morris removed Price from the game and sent him home.

It was foolish. Its selfish to your teammates, to everybody in the organization, to your fans. Thats terrible. Thats just selfish behavior, to get a 15-yard penalty in that situation when thats all we talk about, thats all we discuss, Morris said. You just dont do that to your team.

The Bucs played without quarterback Josh Freeman, who sat out with an injury to his right shoulder. Josh Johnson made his fifth pro start, throwing for 229 yards and one touchdown while also leading his team in rushing.

Newton completed 12 of 21 passes for 204 yards and no interceptions. He added 54 yards rushing on 14 carries, teaming with Stewart (14 attempts, 80 yards) to help Carolina gain 163 on the ground. Newton nearly scored on his reception after throwing backward to Naanee on the far side of the field and taking a throw-back to the left.

Its a play the Panthers have practiced for a while, but had never used in a game.

He gave me a catchable ball and put the pressure on me to make the play, Newton said. In practice, I cant get hit and it goes for touchdowns. I was trying to get him to the Pro Bowl with the highest quarterback rating, but that didnt work out.

Stewarts 1-yard run put Carolina up 14-0. Newton leaped over the pile to finish an 83-yard, game-opening march and tied the record for rushing TDs by a quarterback to make it 31-12 in the third quarter. His third TD, giving him the record, a 15-play, 91-yard drive that lasted nearly eight minutes.

Im not going to sit up here and say it doesnt mean something, Newton said of the record. Im not focusing on individualism in this game. Its still 11-on-11. I dont think I couldve done anything without those other 10 guys, most importantly the five guys who are blocking their tails off each and every snap.

Connor Barth kicked field goals of 50, 47, 46 and 44 yards for Tampa Bay in the first half. Johnson finally got the Bucs into the end zone when he threw a 23-yard TD pass to Dezmon Briscoe with 6:35 remaining.

In addition to completing 16 of 27 passes and being intercepted once, Johnson led Tampa Bay with 45 yards rushing on five attempts. LeGarrette Blount(notes), coming off consecutive 100-yard games, was limited to 19 yards on 11 carries.

Its very satisfying. The big thing thats really exciting is we have a bunch of young guys who have gone through so much, now theyre seeing some rewards, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said.

I think we do have a run in us. Weve got good football teams coming Atlanta, Houston, Tampa again, Rivera said. Weve got to continue to work. We need to finish strong. We do expect to build on this and gain momentum.

Boswell boots Steelers to AFC championship with six field goals

Boswell boots Steelers to AFC championship with six field goals

BOX SCORE

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Who needs to reach the end zone when you have Le'Veon Bell chewing up yards and the clock, and Chris Boswell setting an NFL playoff record with six field goals?

Throw in a stingy Pittsburgh defense for most of Sunday night, and a multitude of mistakes by Kansas City, and the Steelers' 18-16 victory sent them into the AFC championship game.

The Steelers (13-5) needed to hold off a last-ditch threat by the Chiefs (12-5) before advancing to face New England next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots won at Pittsburgh 27-16, but Ben Roethlisberger was injured and didn't play.

"I think it's going to be a showdown," Bell said. "Two great quarterbacks going head to head. Two of the best teams in the AFC. It's time to settle it next week."

Since 2001, the Patriots and Steelers have combined to win nine AFC titles.

Spencer Ware's 1-yard touchdown run took Kansas City within 18-16. The Chiefs at first converted the 2-pointer to tie it, but tackle Eric Fisher - the first overall selection in the 2013 draft - was penalized for holding. The next try failed.

With 2:43 remaining, Justin Gilbert misplayed the kick return and was tackled at the Pittsburgh 5. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 7 yards on third down and Pittsburgh then ran out the clock, securing a ninth straight victory for the Steelers. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1994, losing five in a row.

The scoring started furiously in the opening minutes, then the game became a kicking exhibition by Boswell, who also had six field goals in the regular season against Cincinnati. And Bell put on a virtuoso running performance, patiently finding holes and then exploding through them. He added a team-record 170 yards rushing to the 167 he had in a win over Miami last week.

"The coaches put a lot of trust in me to get the job done," Bell said of his 30 carries. "Just run hard. Just picked my spots where I could and run hard."

The Steelers became first team to win a playoff game without a TD since eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC divisional round at Baltimore.

Using a no-huddle attack almost to perfection early on, the Steelers drove deep into Kansas City territory. But they bogged down inside the 5 and Boswell made a 22-yard field goal.

The Chiefs were just as efficient on a six-play march capped by receiver Albert Wilson lining up in the backfield, then slipping uncovered into the end zone for a 5-yard score.

Pittsburgh's answer came on a 52-yard heave to All-Pro Brown, who somehow was covered by linebacker Justin Houston. That led to Boswell's second field goal, a 38-yarder. He added a 36-yarder to cap a 14-play drive on which Pittsburgh again barely huddled.

A clean game up until then turned to, well, turnovers, on successive series. Bud Dupree pounded Alex Smith, whose pass shot high into the air and was caught by linebacker Ryan Shazier.

The Steelers got to the Kansas City 5, where Frank Zombo leaped to deflect Roethlisberger's throw, and All-Pro safety Eric Berry - burned for 26 yards on the previously play - picked it off in the end zone.

Boswell's fourth field goal, from 45 yards, made it 12-7 at the half. His 43-yarder, setting the franchise record for a postseason game and tying the league mark of five, came on Pittsburgh's first series of the second half. A 43-yarder midway in the fourth quarter gave Boswell the NFL record.

"It's just about doing my job," Boswell said. "Coming out here, put it through the yellow pipes. Don't really think too much. Don't think like I'm the guy or anything. I'm just doing my job and doing my one-eleventh for the team."

Kansas City's Cairo Santos got in on the kicking act with a 48-yarder to make it 15-10. At that point, 10 seconds from the end of the third quarter, the Chiefs were outgained 333 yards to 150.

WEATHERMAN

Switching the game from noon local time to an evening kickoff to avert an ice storm had no effect on the crowd. Fans arrived early, tailgated in the rain as the worst of the storm never hit the area. But fog rolled into Arrowhead Stadium in the second quarter, obscuring some views from on high. Not that what was going on was worth watching for Chiefs fans.

NOTES

Bell rushed for almost as many yards (101) in the first half as the Chiefs gained (106). ... Boswell's four first-half field goals tied the team record for an entire playoff game. ... Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce had a rough game, including a big drop and a 15-yard roughing penalty in the third period.

UP NEXT

Steelers: Head to New England for a shot at making the Super Bowl.

Instant Replay: Kings fall just short in battle with Westbrook, Thunder

Instant Replay: Kings fall just short in battle with Westbrook, Thunder

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO --  It’s coming undone. The Sacramento Kings dropped another one at home Sunday night, falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder by a final of 122-118. The Kings are now just 1-5 on their season-long seven-game homestand and they’ve trailed by 14 or more points in each game.

Russell Westbrook pushed the ball every chance he got and when he wasn’t scoring at the rim or getting fouled, he was burying 3-pointers. The perennial MVP candidate posted a 36-point, 10-assist, 11-rebound triple-double in the win. He also turned the ball over six times, but his ability to get his team out in transition buried the Kings.

With all eyes on Westbrook, Victor Oladipo found plenty of room to operate. The Thunder’s starting shooting guard scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half.

Big man Enes Kanter had a nice night, hitting Sacramento for 29 points and 12 rebounds off the Thunder bench and Alex Abrines hit 3-of-4 from deep on his way to 13 points. 

DeMarcus Cousins struggled from the field early on, but got his game on track late. Sacramento’s star big posted 31 points, 11 rebounds and handed out seven assists, but it wasn’t enough to get the Kings over the hump. 

Rudy Gay came out aggressive against Oklahoma. The 30-year-old forward finished the night with 22 points on 6-for-18 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. 

Darren Collison added 21 points and two assists. Anthony Tolliver knocked in both of his 3-point shots on his way to 10 points and Garrett Temple added eight points, four rebounds and three assists as the Kings fell to 16-24 on the season. 

STANDOUT PERFORMER

Westbrook is a star, but Kanter was the game changer in this one. The big out of Kentucky lit the Kings up in post. His seven offensive rebounds were huge and so was his 9-of-11 shooting from the free throw line.  

TURNING POINT

The Kings came out flat in the first half and trailed by as many as 17. They had opportunities in the second half, even cutting the lead to three with 26.5 seconds remaining, but the huge early deficit proved too much.

INJURY UPDATE 

Ty Lawson turned his left ankle late in the game and did not return. Big man Steven Adams hit his head in the early third quarter and underwent tests for a concussion. 

WHAT'S NEXT 

Sacramento finishes their season-long seven-game homestand Wednesday when the Indiana Pacers make their way to the Golden 1 Center. Following the game, the Kings leave Sacramento, embarking on an eight-game road trip beginning Friday evening with the Memphis Grizzlies.