Raiders key matchup No. 1: Gaither vs. Newton

Raiders key matchup No. 1: Gaither vs. Newton
December 22, 2012, 1:30 pm
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Cam Newton leads the Panthers 3,461 passing yards and 647 rushing yards. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Editor's note: This is the final part in a series that spotlighted three Raiders-Panthers matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (CBS), at Bank of America Stadium.

[MATCHUP NO. 1: Raiders vs. easter time zone]

[MATCHUP NO. 2: Mike Goodson vs. Luke Kuechly]

Raiders MLB Omar Gaither vs. Panthers QB Cam Newton

Tale of the tape
Gaither (53): 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, seventh season, Tennessee
Newton (1): 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, second season, Auburn

CHARLOTTE -- So, is Cam Newton more "icon," or "entertainer" for Carolina?

The Raiders figure to get a full dose of both Sunday, as well as Newton's athletic blend of power and speed. It will be a familiar sight for middle linebacker Omar Gaither, who spent last season with the Panthers.

"He's big and fast," Gaither said. "If he were playing a different position it would probably be (defensive) end. And a guy who can run. He has every tool you need in a quarterback, and he can beat you with his feet. So you basically need to keep him in front and contain him on the edges.

"You see the highlights every week of him getting a 60-yard scamper. Those are the kind of things that kill your defense. You just have to contain him."

Indeed, not only is Newton leading the Panthers in passing with 3,461 yards through the air, he is also Carolina's leading rusher, running for 647 yards thus far. Only three other players in league history have led their respective team in both categories in a season, Bobby Douglass, Randall Cunningham (four times) and Donovan McNabb.

"You have to have your antennas up every play, every down," Gaither said. "So it's not like, OK, third down, they have a running quarterback, let's spy him. No. Because he might take off on first down with the read-option.

"That's just the challenge that that team presents for us. Steve Smith is still rolling. Those running backs are good. But you've got to stop Cam."

Newton was so frustrated early in the year that he jokingly said he needed a "suggestion box" from media and fans to help him get out of his slump. Apparently, it worked.

In his last five games, Newton has thrown 10 touchdowns without an interception and has a 109.8 passer rating in that time frame. In his last seven games, he has 17 TDs (13 passing, four rushing) and two turnovers. He has not thrown an interception in his last 152 pass attempts, dating to Nov. 11, the longest such active streak in the NFL.

And having thrown for 7,502 career yards , Newton needs 373 yards to eclipse Peyton Manning for most yards passing in a player's first two NFL seasons. He also has 21 rushing touchdowns, the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 20 rushing TDs in his first two years.

Only running backs Arian Foster (24), Adrian Peters (23) and Marshawn Lynch (22) have rushed for more touchdowns the past two seasons/

"He's a 'wow' player," Gaither said. "Some stuff you can't practice for it. It's like if you're playing against Kobe (Bryant), you know what he can do, but somehow he still hangs 40 (points) on you. You've got to contain him, keep him bottled up and not let him (break one).

"Maybe if he gets a five-, six-, seven- or eight-yard scamper here or there, that's fine. Just don't let him go for 50. And that's kind of what you have to do with him."