Ravens' No. 1 defense looks to stop 'fast dinosaur' Newton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Baltimore Ravens safety Eric Weddle likened Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to a "fast dinosaur" this week.
"Muscular and big," Weddle said. "He's a very unique quarterback in the league, the only one really like him."
The Ravens' defense ranks first in the league overall, but they've not faced a dual-threat quarterback such as Newton, which adds some intrigue to what should be a physical game Sunday between two teams that pride themselves on playing great defense and ball-control offense.
Weddle said when Newton gets loose, bringing him down calls for a player to proceed at his own risk. He chose the Triceratops as the kind of dinosaur that best represents Newton.
"The big one with horns," Weddle said.
Newton is the NFL's all-time leader in touchdowns rushing by a quarterback and is third all-time in yards rushing with 4,577. He needs 352 yards to pass Randall Cunningham for second place. Mike Vick is No. 1 with 6,109 yards.
"Amazing player, extremely difficult in the open field," Weddle said of Newton.
Newton laughed at Weddell's compliment, saying it's not the first time someone has called him that. The 2015 league MVP said Trooper Taylor, a former assistant at Auburn, used to call him that when he was playing for the Tigers.
"I always asked him, 'Why do you call me a dinosaur?'" Newton said. "He said, 'Your talent is extinct. They don't make them like you no more.'
"I always laughed, but if you look around this league — and I've tried to warn a lot of people prior, too — it not cocky, it's not confidence, it's just self-belief in yourself knowing that the talents that you possess, a lot of people can't say that they have."
Newton has run for 252 yards and a team-high three touchdowns this season while averaging 4.9 yards per carry for Carolina (4-2). He's also thrown for 11 TDs.
Things to watch in Sunday's game between the Ravens and Panthers:
Newton won't be the only quarterback on the field to be a threat to run.
Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has proven effective as an occasional replacement for Joe Flacco in short-yardage situations for the Ravens (4-3). The former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft pick scored his first NFL touchdown last week and ranks second on the team with 103 yards rushing.
Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly said Jackson "is a playmaker who creates problems because of his speed and athleticism" and that "it's important to know where he is on the field."
Harbaugh often wrestles with finding the right time to use Jackson because Flacco is having such a good season with 11 touchdown passes and four interceptions.
"It's more an art than science," Harbaugh said. "Joe is playing at a very high level. We don't want to lose sight of that. We try to do the best we can to put both those guys in there in ways that help us score points and move the ball."
COVERING TIGHT ENDS
The Ravens drafted Hayden Hurst in the first round figuring he would play a major role on the offense, but a foot injury has limited him to one catch for 7 yards. Now rounding back into good health, he may have an opportunity to break out this week against a Carolina defense that has struggled covering tight ends.
Carolina has allowed the sixth-most passing yards to tight ends in the NFL at 79.6 per game. Last week, Philadelphia's Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert combined for eight receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Ron Rivera said he was unconcerned with those numbers, adding that he feels as if the Panthers have done a good job against opposing wide receivers this year, which has been their focus. Rivera added that "I don't think for the most part you're going to get killed by tight ends."
STELLAR PASS RUSHERS
Sunday's matchup features two stellar pass rushers with Carolina's Julius Peppers and Baltimore's Terrell Suggs. Peppers has 156½ sacks, which is fourth all-time and the most among active players. Suggs is 15th all-time with 131 sacks.
"Those kinds of guys are just on a different level athletically," Harbaugh said. "There aren't very many of those types of human beings walking around on the planet."
Two of the Ravens' losses this season have come by a combined four points. Cleveland won with a field goal in overtime, and the Saints prevailed when Justin Tucker misfired on a conversion with 24 seconds last week.
So what's it take to win those kinds of games?
"You have to make a closing play somewhere along the way," Harbaugh said.
The Panthers seem to have that skill. Their past two wins were 33-31 over the Giants and 21-17 last week.
Tucker's extra point miss last week was big for the Ravens, but he's not the only one struggling with the point after.
Carolina's Graham Gano has missed extra points in back-to-back weeks. Strangely enough, Gano is 8 of 8 on field-goal attempts, including a game-winner from 63 yards against the Giants.
AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore, Maryland, contributed to this report.
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