Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 11/28/11
The Panthers entered Sunday's game at Indianapolis looking to use the final six weeks as a springboard for next season, building momentum with some wins on the field. They're off to a good start. The Panthers rediscovered their running game and kept the Colts winless and snapped a 12-game losing streak on the road. They will look to continue their success next week when they travel to face the slumping Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers did it the old-fashioned way - running the football. DeAngelo Williams, who had scored just once all season, ran for a pair of touchdowns to lift the Panthers. Cam Newton also scored as the Panthers scored three rushing touchdowns for the first time all year. Jonathan Stewart carried 10 times for 70 yards, while Williams finished with a season-high 15 carries for 69 yards. Newton, who is as much a part of the running game as Williams and Stewart, carried nine times for 53 yards. "This is something we can build off of, use as a springboard as we go forward," coach Ron Rivera said. "It's not where you are now - it's where you're headed." The loss to the Colts all but takes the Panthers out of the running for the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft for the second straight year. Had the Colts won, the Panthers would have only been one game behind the Colts in the loss column. But now the Panthers are 3-8. While they're still likely to have a top-10 pick, it certainly puts some distance between them and the Colts. Sources had said last year the Panthers had planned to take Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick had he come out of Stanford. Now, with their quarterback position settled, the Panthers are likely to look to improve their defense or add another wide receiver in next year's NFL draft. NOTES, QUOTES TRENDING: Kealoha Pilares did it again. Pilares, a rookie from Hawaii, had an 81-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter that led to a key field goal to give the Panthers an eight-point lead late in the game against the Colts. That comes off a 101-yard kickoff return for a score in the previous week's loss to Detroit. Carolina's return game had done nothing all season and it ranked 29th in kickoff and punt returns just two weeks ago. But now they're beginning to shine. Punt returner Armanti Edwards also had a good return although it was called back on a hold on Kion Wilson. BY THE NUMBERS: Newton now has 10 rushing touchdowns this season, two shy of the NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback held by Steve Grogan. "I know this might sound crazy, but I feel more comfortable about protecting myself (outside of the pocket) than when I'm defenseless in the pocket," Newton said. "Inside the pocket, I don't see who's coming. Your body is vulnerable to hits, and you can't really brace if you want to get a completion. I can be more dangerous when I'm running, when I have my eyes on a swivel and am aware of my surroundings. Honestly, I take more hits in the pocket than I do outside the pocket." STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL QB Cam Newton ran for another touchdown on Sunday and he continues to close in on Steve Grogan's record of 12 rushing touchdowns in a season. CB Chris Gamble had a key interception, his third of the season, in the end zone late in the game that ended a Colts scoring threat. By all accounts Gamble has had a solid season for the Panthers. WR Legedu Naanee played despite suffering from Achilles tendinitis, but he was a non-factor in the game. DE Charles Johnson got in on a sack, snapping a two-game streak without a sack. RB DeAngelo Williams ran for two touchdowns on Sunday, doubling his entire season output. TE Jeremy Shockey returned to the field Sunday after missing a week with sore ribs. He did have a fumble in the game.
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