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Sunday, November 24, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Carolina Panthers

By David Newton


MIAMI -- A few thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 20-16 victory against the Miami Dolphins:

What it means: The streak goes on. The Panthers, despite themselves, won their seventh straight game to improve to 8-3 and move toward a huge NFC South showdown against New Orleans in two weeks. I say despite themselves because they looked like the team having to deal with distractions for much of the day, struggling to defend the deep pass and looking sloppy on offense. A holding penalty that negated a first down in Miami territory with about six minutes to go typified the day. Yet the Panthers kept this one close enough to win against a Miami team fighting for its playoff survival. In past years this one would have been a blowout loss with all the mistakes.

Stock watch: Three straight comebacks for quarterback Cam Newton. Time to call him Comeback Cam? A 19-yard completion to Steve Smith on fourth-and-10 from his own 20 was huge to eventually set up a game-winning 1-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen with 43 seconds left. But he set the tone on the first series of the third quarter. Newton rushed four times for 35 yards, including an 8-yard run on fourth-and-1, and capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.

Exposed: The Panthers hadn't given up more than three pass plays of 20-plus yards in any of the past three games. They gave up two of more than 50 in the first half -- one for a touchdown -- and three of 20 or more. They should have given up another as Mike Wallace was in a different zip code when quarterback Ryan Tannehill overthrew him in the third quarter.

Riverboat Ron lives: This might have been the gutsiest of coach Ron Rivera's fourth-and-1 calls. He went for it from his own 41-yard line, the first time this season he's done that in his own territory. Newton made him look good with an 8-yard run for the first down. Carolina has now been successful on fourth-and-1 six times on eight attempts since Rivera was called out for being conservative and not going for it at Buffalo in Week 2. Newton then converted a fourth-and-10 play with just over two minutes left from his own 20. Not sure there's an official stat on that one.

Bad day for Ginn: Wide receiver Ted Ginn had his second chance this season -- the other against San Francisco -- to make a statement against a former team. He dropped a deep pass on which he had badly beaten the secondary, had two questionable fair catches inside his own 10, and didn't field a punt around the 10 with one defender to beat for a big gain.

What's next? The Panthers play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium. They defeated the Bucs 31-13 in a Thursday night game in Tampa on Oct. 24.