Norv Turner doesn't shy from using Cam Newton as a runner to win


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Attention NFL: Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner may be old in terms of football years, but he’s not so old-school in his philosophy.

He’s going to take advantage of the weapons he has as promised. And quarterback Cam Newton is a weapon as a runner.

Any notion that Newton would run less with Turner, 66, at the helm was dispelled in Sunday’s 16-8 season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

It actually was dispelled in the first half as Newton, who has rushed for more yards than any quarterback since he entered the league in 2011, carried seven times for 64 yards and a touchdown.

And most of these were designed runs, not scrambles.

Newton, who finished with 13 carries for 58 yards (several kneel-downs at the end), began with a carry for no gain on Carolina’s second play. Three plays later, he went 16 yards up the middle after faking a handoff to running back Christian McCaffrey.

This was nothing like the play-calling Turner did in the early 1990s at Dallas with Troy Aikman — who happened to be in the booth calling the game — at quarterback.

Then again, Turner’s never had a weapon like Newton, whom he called in an interview with ESPN in April the NFL’s most dangerous quarterback with the ball in his hands.

Newton definitely kept the Cowboys off balance even though the Panthers couldn’t fully take advantage. His threat as a runner was seen on Carolina’s second touchdown when McCaffrey gained 15 yards on an option left.

Newton’s running was an afterthought this offseason and during the preseason. The focus was on the 2015 NFL MVP becoming more efficient and getting his career 58.5 completion percentage into the 65 to 70 percent range.

He did that, too, completing 65.3 percent of his attempts for 161 yards — and no interceptions.

But it was Newton’s ability as a runner that set the tone.

It also was the biggest surprise since no one knew for sure how much the quarterback would run with all the preseason talk about getting McCaffrey 25 to 30 touches a game. McCaffrey didn’t come close. He carried 10 times for 50 yards and caught six passes for 45 yards.

Not a surprise was Carolina’s defense, which held Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott to 18 yards rushing in the first half and 69 for the game. Linebacker Luke Kuechly was everywhere with 13 tackles.

This may be the style of play Carolina has to maintain to win while Newton gets used to a rebuilt receiving corps. That Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen left in the first half with an injury to the same right foot that required surgery and kept him out nine games a year ago also makes using Newton as a runner more necessary.

This new offense remains a work in progress, but fortunately for the Panthers they have Newton’s old legs to rely on.

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