NFL: Panther trickery equals win

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 19, 2011

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE — Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski has a bag full of tricks and he’s not afraid to use them — even if it means borrowing a play from a kids’ movie.
With Cam Newton under center, Chudzinski is finding fun news ways to use the talented rookie’s athleticism to his advantage.
The latest twist was borrowing a hidden-ball trick very loosely adapted from a play called “the annexation of Puerto Rico” from the 1994 movie the Little Giants to help the Panthers beat the Texans 28-13. The play resulted in a 7-yard touchdown run by fullback Richie Brockel and landed the Panthers on highlight reels across the country.
And it had the Texans chasing an empty-handed Newton, who sold the play perfectly.
“Cam’s ability to run and throw, it just adds another dimension,” coach Ron Rivera said. “It has been kind of neat to see the different things we’ve been able to do with him over the course of the season and show he’s an integral part of what we are and what we’re going to become.
It’s not the first time Chudzinski has ventured into a gadget play to ignite the offense — and probably won’t be the last.
Two weeks against Tampa bay he called for a throwback pass from receiver Legedu Naanee — who originally went to Boise State to play quarterback — to Newton that resulted in a big gain and nearly another touchdown before he was dragged down at the 2-yard line.
Chudzinski has also experimented with using running back DeAngelo Williams in the Wildcat and also had another college quarterback, Armanti Edwards, throw a pass to Steve Smith on Sunday.
Chudzinski declined interviews through the team’s public relations department, saying he was too busy preparing for Tampa Bay on a short week.
But Rivera said the play is another example of Chudzinski’s creative nature, which is just a small part of the reason he brought him to Carolina after landing the Panthers head coaching gig.
“You can sit there and wonder what else can you guys do?” Rivera said. “I think it’s about knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are for each of your players… But we’re not here to get fans excited about (trick plays); we want to get them excited about the fact we can win football games.”
The Panthers didn’t run many trick plays early in the season.
That’s because Chudzinski didn’t have a great grasp on his new roster due to the NFL lockout-shortened offseason.
Chudzinksi’s play call Sunday is sure to become an instant classic on highlight films.
The Panthers ran the play in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against Texans while leading 14-0 and faced with a second-and-6 at the Texans 7-yard line.
The Texans were keying on Newton, who entered the game with 13 rushing touchdowns, and bit hard when he took the snap and did a spin move as he rolled out to the right side. What they didn’t see was Newton stick the ball between Brockel’s legs after he’d lined up just a few feet behind the right guard.
“When we put that play in, I never thought in a million years that that play was going to work, let alone get a touchdown,” receiver Brandon LaFell said.
LaFell said the team walked through the play in practice, but had never run it against a live defense.
“It’s one of those plays where if the timing is right and you call it at the right time it’s about as good as it gets,” Rivera said.
While thrilled with how the play worked out, Rivera was more pleased that the Panthers (5-9) were finally able to close out a game against a playoff team.
The fourth quarter has been brutal this season for the Panthers as they’ve lost six games in which they’ve either led or been tied. The Panthers have now won three of their last four games, but this was their first win against a team with a winning record.
“It’s very nice, more so for our players to understand that we have that kind of ability in the locker room and we have guys who can step up and make plays when they have to,” Rivera said.
Wide receiver Steve Smith said every win is important for the Panthers as they look to next season.
“Some people may say that we aren’t playing for anything, what’s the point, but we are playing for the next three Sunday’s and then the first Sunday in September,” Smith said. “Hopefully, if you keep working hard enough, you’ll be on that final roster in September. That’s what you are playing for, future employment.”
Notes: Rivera said he’s concerned about cornerback Captain Munnerlyn’s right hamstring which forced him to leave in the third quarter. Rivera said it’s not torn but there’s a chance it could keep him out against Tampa Bay. … Also, defensive end Charles Johnson has a sore back and safety Charles Godfrey injured his left shoulder that has been bothering him.
The Associated Press
12/19/11 15:08