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Sunday, November 24, 2013
Fourth-and-10 game changer break down

By David Newton

MIAMI -- It's fourth down and 10. Two minutes and 33 seconds are on the clock. The Carolina Panthers are at their own 20-yard line and trailing 16-13, in jeopardy of seeing their six-game winning streak end.

But there is no panic in the huddle.

There's almost a sense of calm.

Quarterback Cam Newton lines up in the shotgun. Wide receiver Steve Smith is double teamed with the safety behind him. He runs what he calls a "post'' although the Panthers have another name for it.

He gets his body in front of the safety and Newton hits him in the chest. Smith, as he typically does, picks up a few extra yards on his own before going down for a 19-yard reception.

First down.

"Fourth-and-10 in the NFL on the road is about as good as it gets,'' tight end Greg Olsen said.

That Olsen caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Newton with 43 seconds left to give the Panthers a 20-16 victory helped a bit, too. But Carolina's winning streak that was extended to seven never would have been possible were it not for fourth-and=10.

Head coach Ron Rivera never hesitated to go for it even though he had one timeout and the two-minute warning to potentially get the ball back if he punted.

"We've got to do it,'' Rivera said. "We've got to do it.''

The players never thought twice about it, either. They already had converted a fourth-and-1 for the sixth time in eight attempts earlier in the game. That this one required nine more yards didn't faze them.

"We all believe,'' tackle Jordan Gross said. "We believe in each other. I didn't sense panic. But never was a feeling of hopelessness.''

That Newton is playing with a level of confidence he hasn't had since college made it possible. He took none of the credit for making the play, which also says a lot about him.

"It's just Agent 89 [Smith] doing what he does best,'' Newton said.

That the play went to Smith should come as no surprise. That's who Newton goes to when his back is against the wall. More times than not, Smith comes through.

The rest of the 12-play, 80-yard drive that used three minutes and 30 seconds seemed easy.

"After that fourth-and-10, you kind of felt the momentum drift in favor of us.,'' Newton said.

All that was left was for Newton to pay homage to LeBron James by mimicking the Miami Heat star's signature celebration move that concludes with a pounding on the chest and salute.

"I'm in the 305 area code where he has reigned supreme with him, [Dwayne] Wade and Chris Bosh,'' Newton said of James, who 24 hours earlier hit a game-winning field goal almost as clutch as the fourth-and-10 pass. "I'm big fans of those guys.

"I know LeBron and I kind of owe him for doing my [Superman] celebration when he came into Charlotte. So anytime I had an opportunity to come here, I was going to give a shout back to those guys.''