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Newton's 14-yard run worth one more look

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula typically is as conservative when dishing out compliments as he is with his play calling.

So I asked him to take off his coordinator's hat and describe quarterback Cam Newton's 14-yard, third-quarter run in Monday night's 24-20 victory over New England.

I was just curious if he would let his hair down and talk about one of the most spectacular runs of the year by a quarterback -- maybe by any player -- as Newton went 75.8 yards (according to ESPN Stats and Info) to gain 14.

He did.

"He finally watched some tape of me when I was in college against Memphis State,'' deadpanned Shula, the starting quarterback at Alabama from 1984-86. "He tried to mimic that. I think I gained 14 yards on that. It was against man coverage, too.''

For the record, Shula had 127 career rushing attempts for 82 yards -- 20 more than Newton had against the Patriots -- at Bama. He had four carries for 12 yards in a 1986 game against Memphis State.

So yes, his tongue was implanted deep in his cheek.

If Shula wanted to compare Newton's run to that of an Alabama quarterback, he should have gone with Kenny Stabler's 47-yard "Run in the Mud'' during a driving rainstorm in the 1967 Iron Bowl against Auburn -- Newton's alma mater.

If you want to compare the run to anything Shula did as a player . . . well, you can't.

Newton's scramble has to be a candidate for the play of the year. If you missed it, here's what happened:

  • Carolina is faced with third-and-7 from its own 37 in a 10-10 game. Newton lines up in the shotgun. New England end Rob Ninkovich runs through guard Nate Chandler and grabs Newton's left leg. Newton high steps out of that one.

  • Newton rolls back to his right and finds himself 16 yards behind the line of scrimmage. With outside linebacker Dont'a Hightower coming hard from his right and Ninkovich, back on his feet, approaching from the left, Newton gives an inside out juke that leaves the defenders grasping for air.

  • Newton pauses for a second around the 21 to look for a receiver, then retreats to the 19 with another juke as end Chandler Jones approaches.

  • Newton, with the ball in his right hand, falls back as far as the18 and takes off around the left side with tackle Jordan Gross sealing off a lane with a nice block.

  • Newton blows past lineman Chandler Jones, then scoots past safety Nate Ebner and a few others as he cuts back toward the middle of the field.

  • Newton's finally run down by Hightower, who made a terrific recovery, at the New England 49-yard line.

Eight plays later, Newton connected with tight end Greg Olsen for a 15-yard go-ahead touchdown.

On Carolina's final series, Newton threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown with 59 seconds left.

He finished with 209 yards passing and three touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 62 yards on seven carries.

But it was that signature 14-yard run in a signature game that stands out.

Back to Shula, who couldn't have drawn up what Newton did anymore than he could have mimicked it as a player.

"No,'' he said in a more serious tone. "You kind of shake your head, because it's nothing you did as a play caller. You're just happy he's on your side doing it.''