Capitals

Panthers, Newton get jolt of confidence after win

201211041218442930590-p2.jpeg

Panthers, Newton get jolt of confidence after win

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Cam Newton's Superman celebration returned Sunday.

So did that confident look on the face of the Carolina's second-year quarterback, a fact that wasn't lost on Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

Rivera said Monday that Newton and his teammates gained some much needed confidence following a 21-13 win Sunday over the Washington Redskins.

Now he can only hope it carries over to the second half of the season.

Nobody is talking about playoffs in Carolina - they have the worst record (2-6) in the NFC at the midway point of the season - but Rivera believes Newton has regained some of the swagger that he displayed in 2011 as the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year after engineering three touchdown drives against the Redskins.

``It's all about confidence,'' Rivera said. ``You play this game better when you're confident and when you know things are going to happen for you (instead of) just hoping. It's a mentality.''

The Panthers snapped a five-game losing streak by finally closing out an opponent on Sunday, something they've struggled with throughout the first half of the season. Carolina led in the fourth quarter of its previous four games but wound up losing.

Rivera said a win like Sunday can go a long way toward building Newton's confidence back up after a rough start to his sophomore season.

Newton has been criticized by teammates and fans for his play and perceived lack of leadership.

Earlier in the year veteran wide receiver Steve Smith called out Newton, saying he needed to stop sulking on the sidelines and develop into a better leader. Smith qualified those statements by saying he's confident Newton can one day be a great football player.

``He's an emotional player,'' Rivera said of Newton. ``He wears his emotions on his sleeve, as we've all seen.

``To be able to come out and play well, and play very consistent, protect the football and make good reads and decisions, and run the ball well like he did. ... and to have so many things go right, that's big for an individual, it's big for (our offensive) unit and it's big for the team.''

Given the team's close losses last month, Rivera was asked Monday if it would've been better for his team's morale to step on an opponent's throat or win a tight game.

``I think step on the neck and win by more,'' Rivera said without hesitation.

Newton thinks so too.

He thought the Panthers had a chance to bury the Redskins while up by 15 points in the fourth quarter instead of allowing them to cut the lead to eight and make things interesting in the final minutes.

``We still have to get the components at the end and finish better,'' Newton said after Sunday's game. ``We had ample opportunities, great field position on offense that the defense put us in on the 40-yard line. We have to find a way to get a first down. I think that's one thing going back and thinking about the game from my point of view right now, that's what we have to work on.''

Still, getting a win was special for Newton.

``It's dessert of the dinner,'' said Newton, who threw for 201 yards and a touchdown and ran for another against the Redskins.

The Panthers could have a tough time putting together back-to-back wins this week against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, who have won four of their last five games and are playing lights out on offense.

It will be a stiff challenge for Carolina's defense, which has improved markedly over the past four weeks.

Ironically, that turnabout came at the same time the Panthers lost starting middle linebacker Jon Beason and cornerback Chris Gamble, considered two of their top defensive players, to season-ending injuries.

``We've settled in defensively,'' Rivera said. ``We've found our intensity. We've gone through a lot but one of the things (defensive coordinator) Sean McDermott and his staff have emphasized is takeaways and turnovers. When you have the takeaway/turnover mentality you become aggressive.''

Rivera isn't setting a goal for the second half of the season in terms of wins, instead saying the Panthers need to start ``trending upward.''

But he likes the attitude of his team.

He pointed out that despite the team's record guys have been staying after practice - normally in groups of 15 to 25 - to get in extra work.

``You don't expect that from guys who are going through what they're going through, but that's what they're doing,'' Rivera said. ``These guys want to do things the right way and they're willing to make the sacrifices.''

NOTES: Rivera said receiver/returner Kealoha Pilares will have an MRI on his injured right shoulder this week. ... The Panthers have until Tuesday to make a decision on whether to bring receiver David Gettis up from the PUP list and Rivera said he could make a move if Pilares' injury is serious.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

usatsi_10028482.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

Quick Links

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

capitalsville-stanley-cup-lovettsville.jpg
FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS: