|10:00 AM PT11:00 AM MT12:00 PM CT1:00 PM ET18:00 GMT2:00 11:00 AM MST1:00 PM EST12:00 PM CT22:00 UAE13:00 ETNaN:� , December 9, 2018|
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio Weather: 28°, Clear Attendance: 59,392
With Newton ailing, Panthers desperate vs.Browns
Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns
- The Panthers and the Browns have faced each other five times, with Carolina winning four games. It is Carolina's third-best record against any opponent behind a 5-1 mark versus both the Colts and the Chargers. These teams last met in Week 16 in 2014, with Carolina winning 17-13.
- Carolina has lost four games in a row, forcing only one turnover and committing eight. Over this four-game losing streak, opposing quarterbacks have combined for 10 touchdown passes and zero interceptions with a 70.4 completion percentage.
- Cleveland's two-game winning streak was snapped with a 29-13 loss at Houston last week. The Browns tied a season high with four turnovers after committing only four over the previous five games combined. The Browns have lost 25 in a row when committing two or more turnovers.
- The Browns rank 28th in the NFL in run defense this season, allowing 136.4 yards per game, and have given up an NFL-high 61 rushes of at least 10 yards. The Panthers rank second in the NFL in rushing offense at 140.8 yards per game, and their average of 5.52 yards per carry leads the league.
- Christian McCaffrey, fourth in the NFL with 1526 scrimmage yards, has topped 100 rushing yards in back-to-back weeks after doing so once in his first 26 NFL games. He's averaged 8.56 per carry in the past two weeks, second most in a two-game span this season behind Isaiah Crowell's 9.25 (min. 25 attempts).
- Baker Mayfield has thrown 18 touchdown passes, the most ever by a Browns QB through his first 10 NFL games. Mayfield has not been sacked in the past three games -- the longest the Browns have gone without allowing a sack since a four-game streak in 1988.
- Falcons' McKinley has mental evaluation
- Panthers unsure if Newton needs surgery
- Pederson: Wentz Eagles QB going forward
- Parry named Super Bowl LIII referee
- Chiefs activate starting guard from IR
The Carolina Panthers' season is on the line when they travel to play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday with quarterback Cam Newton's availability and/or level of effectiveness in question.
Newton, who had right shoulder surgery last year and is battling what might be residual pain, had one of his worst games last Sunday, when he threw four interceptions and was sacked four times by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the Panthers (6-6) lost their fourth straight game.
Don't expect Newton, who has thrown at least one interception in each of the four defeats, to be standing on the sideline.
"I'm healthy enough to play and I'm not going to let nothing hold me back," Newton said, according to Max Henson of the Panthers' official website. " ... You have to learn how to manage pain. You've just got to live with it. Father Time ain't nobody's friend."
Newton seemed more concerned with the interceptions, saying: "We can't have that. I can't allow that and accept that from myself."
Said head coach Ron Rivera when asked about Newton: "We'll see. We just do the best we can with it. ... He's going to do whatever he can to try to win."
Rivera has other problems after taking over the defensive play-calling against the Buccaneers and then firing defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura the next day.
Defensive coordinator Eric Washington was retained, but will concentrate on other areas, particularly overseeing the front seven.
Something had to be done because the Panthers have allowed 52, 20, 30 and 24 points during the four-game losing streak after they won six of their first eight.
"Ultimately, I'm charged with putting the team in the best position to succeed, and I felt these moves were necessary in order to do that," Rivera said.
Making matters worse, the Panthers have lost tight end Greg Olsen for the rest of the season because of a foot injury, putting even more pressure on Newton and running back Christian McCaffrey.
Rivera knows there's only one way to salvage things, starting against the Browns.
"Win, that's the only way," he said. "You can look at it, the last few games we have played have come down to the last opportunities we have had, whether it be on offense or defense. You just have to make a play."
That might not be as easy as one might expect against the Browns (4-7-1) and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy-winner from Oklahoma.
Mayfield threw three interceptions and had only 46 yards passing last week in the first half of a 29-13 loss to the Houston Texans, but turned that around with 351 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
"We're very eager (for the next game), not just myself," Mayfield said this week. "This group has learned exactly how we have to start the game, how we need to attack, so I think everybody's eager."
Sometimes, the most difficult thing for a young player to do is quickly put a poor performance in the rear-view mirror.
His teammates believe Mayfield has already done that.
"I think he already bounced back in the second half (against the Texans)," left guard Joel Bitonio said. "His mentality, I think he forgot about it by halftime. He's going to be ready this week, and I think he's going to want to improve on his overall performance.
"The great thing about him is he can play the next play, but he will come back and be his biggest critic. He knows he's trying to improve everything and he wants those throws back, and he is going to be ready to get out there and improve those."
The Browns must climb over four teams to catch the Baltimore Ravens (7-5), who currently hold the second wild-card spot in the AFC, to make the playoffs.
That appears to be hopeless, but interim head coach Gregg Williams claims his team is not simply playing out the string in these last four games.
"It's not an act," Williams said. "I want our guys to come in winning every day, winning every single second of every day and let the chips fall where they may, but do our jobs on winning every day.
"They hit the ground running, nobody being late and everybody being anxious to get back in here. That's the mark of the right kind of people. We will keep on pushing the right kind of people."
Listening to the talk, you would almost think the records were reversed.
Updated December 8, 2018