Panthers seal Texans defeat with trick play
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HOUSTON -- With all eyes on Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers turned to a trick play to stretch their big lead in Houston.
Newton took the snap, slipped the ball to Richie Brockel, and the tight end swung around the left side for a touchdown late in the first half of Carolina's 28-13 victory that snapped the Texans' seven-game winning streak.
Newton also threw two touchdown passes and outplayed opposing rookie quarterback T.J. Yates.
The Panthers (5-9) built a 21-0 halftime lead, then ended Houston's second-half rally when linebacker James Anderson intercepted Yates in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.
But the talk in the Panthers' locker room after the game swirled around the bold gimmick play from the Texans 7 in the final minute of the half.
"The offensive coaches have basically been working on different things and things that we can mix with what we do on offense," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "I'm not sure which one of our guys came up with this one, but the timing of it was perfect."
Houston's focus on Newton, the top overall pick, created the opportunity to run the play.
"The defense is so keyed up on him and worried about him making the play," Brockel said, "they sometimes forget about other things and their assignments."
By then, Carolina already had the Texans (10-4) on their heels.
Houston looked emotionally flat after clinching the AFC South last weekend, and its top-ranked defense appeared vulnerable without coordinator Wade Phillips, who's on medical leave after undergoing kidney and gall bladder surgery this week.
Linebackers coach Reggie Herring made the defensive calls on Sunday, but the Texans could not generate a turnover in a game for the first time this season.
"I just think the overall theme of the day was, we gave up big plays and there were discipline parts of the game that we were not very disciplined on, as we have been throughout the year," Herring said. "We obviously didn't execute very well."
Houston gave up only 316 yards, but Carolina converted two Texans turnovers into 14 points.
Newton has avoided a turnover in three of four games since throwing four interceptions in a loss to Detroit on Nov. 20.
"I think that's the key to success for the Carolina Panthers offensively," Newton said. "I look at other quarterbacks across the league and when they do a good job of protecting the football that's just the key to the win."
First Published December 19, 2011 12:00 am