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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Quarterback Cam Newton said if the Panthers are going to turn things around this season he needs to play better in the second half of games.
The Panthers have led at halftime in all four games this season, but are just 1-3 entering Sunday's game at Minnesota.
Newton's numbers in the second half of Carolina's three losses tell the story of a team that can't finish and struggles to adjust to halftime changes opposing defenses throw at them. Newton has completed 20 of 40 passes for only 210 yards with only one touchdown and two interceptions, according to STATS INC.
The third-year quarterback said that the stat is "viable" and "if we are going to make this next step I'm going to have to step up my game in the second half."
Newton can't put his finger on why the Panthers have struggled after the break.
"I'm not sure," Newton said. "I think it's more on my behalf that I have to focus in and hone in on my skills and say 'Look, let me focus more in the second half and get the job done."
Carolina's offense, which ranked among the most productive in the league under former Rob Chudzinski, has struggled this season under new offensive coordinator Mike Shula.
Carolina is 24th in the league in total offense and 27th in points scored per game.
The Panthers offense couldn't have looked much worse last Sunday with Newton turning the ball over four times and taking seven sacks in one of his worst statistical outings of his career.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said while it's unfair to blame the offensive woes on Newton — he points out the lack of pass protection and drops by receivers have been issues, too — he said the Panthers tend to go how Newton goes.
"When he is playing well, we're protecting well and running well, we're running good routes and getting open, we're catching the ball and throwing the ball where it needs to be," Rivera said. "And when he's not (playing well), he doesn't have the time that he needs and is not delivering the ball where it needs to be and we're not getting open."
Panthers offensive tackle and co-captain Jordan Gross said the offensive line can do its part by protecting Newton better.
They've allowed 15 sacks this season.
Rivera said when teams aren't stacking the line of scrimmage with extra defensive linemen they're blitzing Newton and trying to force him into bad decisions.
That worked for the Cardinals on Sunday as Newton threw three picks.
"Teams are going to blitz us because they've had success blitzing us," Gross said. "The Buffalo game and the Arizona game are examples of that. So I would expect we will see more of that. We have to pick up the stuff we've seen them do and then the stuff we've haven't seen them do we have to adjust on the fly. We're going to see a lot of different looks and we have to do a better job of picking them up."
Newton said after watching game film he needs to focus on doing the little things better including carrying out his fakes, hitting his receivers in stride and throwing the ball away rather than taking sacks.
"It's about making smart decisions," Newton said.
Newton ranks 24th in the NFL in quarterback rating. He has the same number of turnovers (six) as touchdown passes through four games.
His overall record as an NFL starter has dropped to 14-22.
"When things are going well and he's making things happen that means the offense is doing the things it needs to be doing," Rivera said of Newton.
AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org