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Newton thinks back to 2014 game against the Eagles

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CHARLOTTE — There are few things Cam Newton likes to do less than answer questions about his past. From his short-lived stay at the University of Florida to what was a four-game losing skid to the Seahawks before last Sunday, the Carolina Panthers quarterback has often refused to reminisce with the media. But Wednesday, ahead of Week 7’s matchup with the Eagles, he fondly remembered back to last fall.

“Toe, ankle, rib, wisdom teeth,” Newton said, grinning while he listed his 2014 ailments. “Back, thumb, wrist. It was everything.”

His painful fourth season obviously wasn’t fun at the time, but the memory of it makes Newton smile now.

“It’s weird to watch film from teams we played last year and see me gimping and limping around,” he said. “I’m just thankful. But at the same time, it’s kind of like a reset and remembrance of how far I’ve come health wise.”

Eleven months ago, Newton and the Panthers limped into Philadelphia on a three-game losing streak. That Monday night was just the halfway point of what would be a six-game skid, but in many ways, it was rock bottom.

On the second play from scrimmage, running back DeAngelo Williams fumbled away the Panthers’ opening possession. Newton then threw an interception on the first play of Carolina’s next drive. At halftime, the Panthers trailed 31-7. Early in the fourth quarter, it was 45-7.

“That was a lack of execution on all fronts,” said Newton, who finished with a season-high three interceptions. “I can only speak for myself, but I threw the ball up for grabs too many times. That’s not a recipe for winning football.”

Neither is getting sacked nine times. Yup, nine times.

The Panthers’ line wasn’t very good last year, but that night, they tied a franchise record in ineptitude. It didn’t help that the offense had to abandon its ball-control game plan. Because of the early blowout, the Eagles were able to pin their ears back and rush an already bruised and battered quarterback.

“I think we faced a different Cam,” Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly said on a conference call with Carolina media. “He looks like he is very healthy this year so I think the game will express itself in a different manner. We haven’t spent a lot of time looking at last year just because I don’t think Cam was at 100 percent last year when we played them.

“He is a complete quarterback and that is the thing that is scary. He can beat you with his arm and with his legs.”

Even though he’s in the bottom half of most passing categories, Newton’s arm has been good enough to win five games with a cast of receivers few outside of Carolina would want. He’s making smarter decisions behind an improved line, he’s running effectively, and when he pops in the tape from that game in Philadelphia last year, the nightmare is now just a memory.

“It feels great now,” Newton said. “It puts a smile on my face knowing I’m very healthy and capable of doing more.”

SERIES HISTORY: 9th regular-season meeting. Eagles lead series, 6-2. This is the third straight time the series will be played in prime time.

GAME PLAN

–The Panthers went into Philadelphia last year with a plan to eat up the clock and keep the ball away from the Eagles’ offense. Two turnovers in their first three offensive plays torpedoed those ideas, but the plan should be the same this year. A healthier Cam Newton needs to team with running back Jonathan Stewart for what would be the Panthers’ 17th straight game of at least 100 rushing yards. Those two and tight end Greg Olsen can help Carolina control the clock.

Defensively, it appears the Panthers don’t match up very well with the Eagles, but they can prove that’s just on paper by forcing QB Sam Bradford into mistakes. Philadelphia’s running game is still inconsistent, and Bradford hasn’t stopped making errors in the fast-paced offense.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Panthers QB Cam Newton, who has been sacked just 10 times in five games this season, vs. Eagles OLB Connor Barwin, who shadowed and sacked Newton 3.5 times last November.

–Panthers CB Bene’ Benwikere, the team’s No. 1 slot defender who missed last year’s matchup, vs. Eagles WR Jordan Matthews, who burned Carolina mostly in the seam for 138 yards and two touchdowns last fall.


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