• WEEK 14 PREVIEW: Big issue: Browns concerned with Newton's size vs. Panthers

    By: TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

    Updated:

    CLEVELAND - During a meeting this week with his defense, Browns interim coach Gregg Williams used star end Myles Garrett as a model.

    And a warning.

    A 6-foot-4, 270-pound mass of chiseled muscle, power and speed, Garrett cuts an imposing figure. He's a physical specimen, the kind of athlete that stands out even in a room full of elite humans.

    Oh, and he happens to be about the same size as Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.

    "I said that he is bigger than Myles," Williams said. "People said, 'What?' I said, 'There it is. There is your quarterback right here- Myles Garrett. That is the kind of framework that you guys are looking at here.' We have our work cut out for us."


    Past Panthers coverage


    One week after failing to contain Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Browns (4-7-1) now have to deal with Newton and the Carolina Panthers (6-6), who have lost four straight games and need a win Sunday to improve their playoff hopes.

    Williams has a history with Newton, who has been slowed by a sore right shoulder and has been limited in practice over the past few weeks. When Williams was with New Orleans, he had to plan for Newton twice a year and still seems to have scars from his encounters with the 6-foot-5, 245-pound dual threat.


    The "Follow the Lead" news app feature allows users to opt-in to follow future coverage of specific news events that they’re interested in.

    This new feature allows you to receive push notifications whenever there are new developments in ongoing stories, breaking news, and stories that are of interest to you. 

    Stories that are followable have tappable tags associated with them. To follow the latest on a topic you are interested in, click the blue tag indicated with a "+" followed by the name.


    "He has grown and taken very good steps year by year by year," Williams said. "(Panther offensive coordinator) Norv (Turner) has done a really good job with the things that they are doing with him. It is back-to-back games with that kind of a quarterback, but more powerful in the pocket. When you are taking a look at getting him down in the pocket, now that is a grown man. It is not a small quarterback."

    Newton is coming off a poor performance in last week's loss at Tampa Bay. He threw four interceptions and was replaced on the game's final play by backup Taylor Heinicke, who came in to attempt a Hail Mary that wasn't answered.

    Earlier this week, Newton said he'd be ready to face the Browns and try to get the Panthers back on track. Carolina trails Minnesota by one-half game for the NFC's second-wild card spot and can't afford another loss.

    With the holiday season approaching, Newton said ending the Panthers' slide would be wonderful.

    "Is Santa listening? I hope he comes early," said Newton, who needs just 1 passing yard to reach 3,000 for the eighth straight year. "I feel like we are so close. Every week I try to think of certain things that can get me over the hump. There is no denying and faking that you see other teams thriving and you know that we can do the same thing.

    "All you need is one (win) to catch fire."

    BAKER BOUNCES BACK

    Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield is looking to put together a complete game after a half-good performance last Sunday.

    Mayfield's three interceptions in the first half led to the Texans opening a 23-0 lead. He recovered nicely by passing for 351 yards after halftime, and he knows he must be more inconsistent.

    And while Mayfield accepted blame for the miscues, offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens said it wasn't just the QB's fault.

    "When interceptions happen, sometimes it is bad decisions by the quarterback, sometimes it is pressure happening more than it should, sometimes it is guys not being in the right spot, sometimes it is a bad play call, and sometimes it is a combination of everything," he said. "That is sort of what happened the other day. This did not all fall on Baker."

    DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENT

    With Carolina's defense underperforming, Panthers coach Ron Rivera has taken play-calling duties away from coordinator Eric Washington. The Panthers have forced just one takeaway in the last four games and have struggled on third down and in the red zone.

    Rivera was Chicago's defensive coordinator for three years.

    Safety Eric Reid doesn't expect much to change philosophically, but Rivera may call more blitzes.

    "I don't know if a ton of stuff will be different, but he has a different way of going about things," Reid said. "He explains why we are doing things and why he likes making a call in a certain situation, the philosophy behind it and how to execute it."

    REPLACING OLSEN

    Greg Olsen's right foot gave out again last week, and the Panthers will be without the three-time Pro Bowl tight end for the remainder of the season. Olsen, who broke the foot twice in the last two years, ruptured his plantar fascia.

    Rookie Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz replace Olsen. Thomas is considered more of the receiving threat. He was pressed into duty earlier this season with Olsen out, but struggled at times with the intricacies of the offense, including route running. Still, the Panthers love his potential.

    McCAFFREY'S RUN

    Tireless running back Christian McCaffrey has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Panthers recently. He has more catches (53) than any player in the NFL since Week 6 and has already tied last year's mark with 80 receptions.

    Over the last five weeks, McCaffrey has run for 440 yards and four touchdowns and caught 36 passes for 363 yards and four TDs. He needs 137 yards rushing and 337 receiving to become only the third running back to surpass 1,000 yards in both categories. The others are Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk.

    CAROLINA (6-6) at CLEVELAND (4-7-1)

    SUNDAY, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

    OPENING LINE - Pick-em.

    RECORD VS. SPREAD - Carolina 5-7, Cleveland 7-5

    SERIES RECORD - Panthers lead 4-1

    LAST MEETING - Panthers beat Browns 17-13, Dec. 21, 2014

    LAST WEEK - Panthers lost to Buccaneers 24-17; Browns lost to Texans 29-13

    AP PRO32 RANKING - Panthers No. 16, Browns No. 22

    PANTHERS OFFENSE - OVERALL (11), RUSH (2), PASS (20)

    PANTHERS DEFENSE - OVERALL (14), RUSH (6), PASS (22)

    BROWNS OFFENSE - OVERALL (18), RUSH (14), PASS (16)

    BROWNS DEFENSE - OVERALL (30), RUSH (28), PASS (29)

    STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES - Panthers' playoff chances slipping amid four-game losing streak. ... Carolina is half-game behind Minnesota for second NFC wild-card spot. ... Carolina has lost last three games by combined seven points. ... Panthers' biggest problem: QB Cam Newton's health. Newton dealing with soreness in surgically repaired right shoulder, affecting ability to throw deep. ... Newton had four INTs last week. ... Newton has TD pass in 11 consecutive games, second-longest streak in league. He needs 1 yard to reach 3,000 for eighth straight season. Peyton Manning is only QB to start career with eight consecutive 3,000-yard seasons. ... Panthers averaging 140.8 rushing yards per game, only behind Seattle's 148.8. ... RB Christian McCaffrey had 161 total yards last week, becoming first player with five straight games of 50 yards rushing, 50 yards receiving. ... Tireless McCaffrey has been on field for 97.4 percent of Panthers' plays. ... Panthers DJ Moore leads all rookie wide receivers with 759 yards from scrimmage. ... Panthers lost TE Greg Olsen for season last week (ruptured plantar fascia). ... Panthers coach Ron Rivera has assumed defensive play calling from coordinator Eric Washington. Carolina D has been poor on third down and creating turnovers. ... Rivera fired D-line line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura. ... Browns' playoff chances took big hit last week. Cleveland fell behind 23-0 in first half before losing at Houston. Rookie QB Baker Mayfield had worst game in month, throwing three interceptions in first half - most since freshman season at Texas Tech. ... Mayfield recovered and passed for 351 yards after halftime, completing 24 of 30 passes. He set team rookie record with 397 yards passing vs. Texans. ... Offensive line has not allowed sack in past three games, longest stretch since 1988. ... DE Myles Garrett has team-leading 11 ½ sacks. ... Browns lead AFC with 27 takeaways. ... Browns DB Terrence Mitchell returns after missing eight games with broken wrist. ... Browns 2-2 under interim coach Gregg Williams. ... Cleveland likely to be without rookie CB Denzel Ward (concussion). ... Fantasy tip: Mayfield accepted blame for last week's early turnovers and could have big bounce back against mediocre Carolina secondary.

    Next Up: