- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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Cam can: How impressive are Cam Newton's consecutive passer ratings of 143.4 (Minnesota) and 136.3 (St. Louis)? No other quarterback in the league -- including Peyton Manning, who is having a career year -- has had consecutive games of 136.0 or better this season. Newton was 15-for-17 for 204 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. Both incompletions were in the first half, and one was a drop by wide receiver Steve Smith. In Carolina's three wins Newton is 50-for-70 for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. He also ran for two touchdowns in those games.
Fourth-and-1: The past few games have been about the Panthers' ability to convert, but on Sunday it was all about the defense's ability to stop. With the Rams threatening to knot the score at 7-all on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Carolina had everything covered perfectly on a pass play the Rams used successfully for a touchdown a week earlier against Houston. Safety Quintin Mikell in particular did a nice job of standing his ground on the play-action pass, leaving quarterback Sam Bradford nowhere to throw.
The Lurk: Safety Mike Mitchell stood on the St. Louis sideline after Bradford out of bounds in the fourth quarter with his arms spread wide. He called that his "lurk," meaning he's always lurking in the secondary. Mitchell said he didn't realize Bradford had injured his knee, which would sideline him for the rest of the game. (Bradford has a torn ACL, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.) Harvey Dahl didn't like the "lurk" move, which ultimately resulted in the offensive lineman getting a personal foul. Mitchell said his issues with Dahl began earlier in the game when Dahl hit linebacker Luke Kuechly late to draw his first personal foul. “You saw the cheap shot he put on Luke earlier," Mitchell said. "I told him about it and I think he had something against me the rest of the game because I got up in his face and told him, ‘You won’t do that to one of our players.'" Mitchell, by the way, also drew a personal foul from wide receiver Brian Quick.
The Luke: No, nothing's wrong with Kuechly, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Kuechly had a career-low three tackles against the Rams and hasn't had double-digit tackles since the second game after having 10 such games last season. The guys up front simply are making more plays so the middle linebacker doesn't have to. Rookie first-round draft pick defensive tackle Star Lotulelei had a career-best six tackles, including two for losses. Second-round pick Kawann Short had three tackles, including two for losses. End Greg Hardy had four tackles, including a sack. Considering the Rams only ran 21 times, there weren't a lot of other opportunities. This is a sign the defense as a whole is playing better, not Kuechly playing worse.
Taking care of business: The Panthers (3-3) have won two in a row and three of their past four. With a win on Thursday night at Tampa Bay (0-6) they can climb above .500 for the first time since 2008. Then comes a winnable game against banged-up Atlanta (2-4). If Carolina can get to 5-3 it has a chance to make a run at the NFC playoffs with only seven teams posting a record better than 3-3 thus far. With six of the next 10 against NFC South opponents the division title could be within reach.
2hEric D. Williams