Panthers' Newton eager for first playoff win
Newton is eager to change that Saturday when Carolina hosts the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC wild-card game.
''It would mean a lot not only for myself, but for this organization,'' Newton said Wednesday. ''... We haven't had the best of luck in the playoffs.''
Carolina's last playoff win was nine years ago.
The Panthers have been back twice since, losing in 2008 to Arizona and last season to San Francisco in home divisional playoff games.
The Panthers lost 23-10 in January to a 49ers team that was loaded with playoff experience after going to three straight NFC Championship games. Newton said participating in the playoffs last season should benefit the Panthers.
''I don't think we got beat talent-wise, it was more we got beat experience-wise,'' Newton said.
The Panthers were 6-10 and 7-9 in Newton's first two seasons. They went 12-4 last season and earned the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
Newton was 16 of 25 for 267 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown in the loss to the 49ers. He said he's learned a lot from that defeat.
''Just playing smart. Knowing when to take shots. Valuing first downs and staying on the field,'' Newton said. ''Because playoff momentum is different than regular season momentum. The team (that) has it, they usually get the win.''
Newton has re-written Carolina's record books since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2011.
He's the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 500 yards in his first four seasons. He's run for 33 touchdowns in his career.
This hasn't been Newton's best statistical season. He has thrown for 3,127 yards and a modest 18 touchdowns with 12 interceptions while battling through ankle, rib and back injuries.
But he finished strong, leading the Panthers to three wins in December and the NFC South championship.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes the two-vehicle wreck Dec. 9 that left Newton with two fractures in his lower back has helped put things in perspective for the 25-year-old quarterback.
Rivera said he noticed a different young man when he met with Newton in the hospital the night of the crash.
He said Newton is having fun again - something he wasn't doing Carolina's seven-game winless streak.
''Somewhere along the lines he realized maybe he was getting too serious about things and started realizing, hey, don't get caught up in certain things, get caught up things that are really more important,'' Rivera said. ''That has helped him relax and play relaxed. When he's having fun and when he's having fun he's pretty doggone good.''
Rivera said that has had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team.
''Guys are feeding off that energy,'' the fourth-year coach said.
Newton said that while the Panthers might have been happy to get into the postseason last year, that isn't the case now. He said the Panthers have approached this week with ''laser-sharp focus'' and want more.
''We have the eye on the prize,'' Newton said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL