Surprise! Williams can catch too

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- This may surprise you.

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is a threat as a receiver. He's no Darren Sproles, but he caught all five of the passes thrown to him in Sunday's 35-10 victory at Minnesota for 53 yards.

He already has 11 catches for 94 yards, which in five games is two shy of what he had in 2012 and five shy of what he had in 2011. He's on pace to break his rookie mark of 33 catches.

"Something that went unnoticed in this game was the unbelievable play by DeAngelo," quarterback Cam Newton said of the team's leading rusher (394 yards). "Even though he didn't have 100 yards rushing, his execution or his performance in the pass game was excellent. He was catching passes that weren't accurate at all in my book.

"But ... he made catches to put us in second-and-4, second-and-6. That can obviously go unnoticed as a fan watching the game. If he continues to play like that, we'll be all right."

This won't surprise you: Williams, playfully one of the more outspoken players on the team, lets his coaches know he can catch.

"He understands he can be a weapon out of the backfield," said coach Ron Rivera, noting Williams has spent extra time after practice working on his receiving. "The one thing [he] wants you to know is he's now a receiving threat."

This may surprise you: While Ted Ginn Jr. and Steve Smith had huge blocks in the victory over Minnesota, the consensus is Brandon LaFell remains the best blocking wide receiver on the team.

He just hasn't made one that stood out like those by Ginn and Smith. Ginn knocked Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes off his feet to free LaFell for a 79-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Smith took on a Vikings linebacker in the fourth quarter that also made the team highlight reel.

This won't surprise you: Rivera, when asked which block was more impressive, said, "You have to go with Ginn's just because it led to a touchdown. Smitty's was a little more physical because it was on a linebacker.''

Rivera is a former linebacker.

But overall, game to game, LaFell gets Rivera's vote.

"He's become an integral part of our run game,'' he said.

This may surprise you: Quarterback Cam Newton is on pace for a career low in rushing. At his current average of 30.6 yards a game, he'll finish with 489.6 yards. He had 741 yards last season and 706 as a rookie.

This may also surprise you: "How can I put this?'' Newton said with a laugh. "I could care less as far as career lows. My sole focus right now is trying to become 3-3 come Sunday."