Rookie Newton already breaking records

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Rookie Newton already breaking records

From Comcast SportsNet

TAMPA, Fla. (AP)Cam Newton thinks the Carolina Panthers are capable of making a strong stretch run, building confidence for a promising future.

With the No. 1 overall draft pick growing up faster than most people considered possible, whos to argue with the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner?

Newton ran for three more touchdowns Sunday, setting an NFL single-season record for rushing TDs by a quarterback and pacing a 38-19 rout of the reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Panthers (4-8) have won two straight to double their victory total from last year. Though the success came against winless Indianapolis and the Bucs (4-8), whove dropped six in a row, Newton feels Carolina is jelling as a team.

In addition to putting together three scoring drives of 80-plus yards against Tampa Bay, the Panthers defense forced the Buccaneers to settle for four first-half field goals and didnt allow a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.

Im seeing a lot of maturity from this team, myself included. It gave us a lot of security in our minds, knowing that the defense is going to come out like they did and hold those guys to field goals. They had a great mentality, Newton said.

Youve got to win games in December, thats what the great teams do, the rookie added. Were not going to overlook anybody. I think we did enough of that earlier in the year. Weve got to take each game at a time, but most importantly each play at a time.

A trio of 1-yard scoring runs gave Newton 13 TDs rushing, one more than New Englands Steve Grogan had in 1976. He also had his first reception as a pro to set up Jonathan Stewarts first-quarter TD, then threw a 19-yard TD pass to Legedu Naanee to finish one of Carolinas three long scoring drives.

I wouldnt say its easier each week. Its a challenge each and every week, Newton said. The one thing Ive seemed to get is more comfortable. Dictating to the defense to some degree with your eyes, the pre-snap reads. The only difference in the NFL and college is the athleticism increases at each position.

Tampa Bay (4-8), which played in throwback creamsicle jerseys and white helmets bearing the logo of a winking pirate, has lost seven of eight following a 3-1 start. The Bucs had nine penalties to Carolinas two, and coach Raheem Morris lashed out at his team for what he described as undisciplined play.

I can take getting beat by a better football team. The foolish things that happened in that game, as far as penalties, some of the things that we caused, are just unacceptable, Morris said. We are not playing like a smart football team right now.

The coachs frustration peaked on the final play of the third quarter when linebacker Geno Hayes sacked Newton for a 4-yard loss only to have defensive tackle Brian Price flagged for unnecessary roughness. It was not clear what Price did to draw the penalty.

Morris removed Price from the game and sent him home.

It was foolish. Its selfish to your teammates, to everybody in the organization, to your fans. Thats terrible. Thats just selfish behavior, to get a 15-yard penalty in that situation when thats all we talk about, thats all we discuss, Morris said. You just dont do that to your team.

The Bucs played without quarterback Josh Freeman, who sat out with an injury to his right shoulder. Josh Johnson made his fifth pro start, throwing for 229 yards and one touchdown while also leading his team in rushing.

Newton completed 12 of 21 passes for 204 yards and no interceptions. He added 54 yards rushing on 14 carries, teaming with Stewart (14 attempts, 80 yards) to help Carolina gain 163 on the ground. Newton nearly scored on his reception after throwing backward to Naanee on the far side of the field and taking a throw-back to the left.

Its a play the Panthers have practiced for a while, but had never used in a game.

He gave me a catchable ball and put the pressure on me to make the play, Newton said. In practice, I cant get hit and it goes for touchdowns. I was trying to get him to the Pro Bowl with the highest quarterback rating, but that didnt work out.

Stewarts 1-yard run put Carolina up 14-0. Newton leaped over the pile to finish an 83-yard, game-opening march and tied the record for rushing TDs by a quarterback to make it 31-12 in the third quarter. His third TD, giving him the record, a 15-play, 91-yard drive that lasted nearly eight minutes.

Im not going to sit up here and say it doesnt mean something, Newton said of the record. Im not focusing on individualism in this game. Its still 11-on-11. I dont think I couldve done anything without those other 10 guys, most importantly the five guys who are blocking their tails off each and every snap.

Connor Barth kicked field goals of 50, 47, 46 and 44 yards for Tampa Bay in the first half. Johnson finally got the Bucs into the end zone when he threw a 23-yard TD pass to Dezmon Briscoe with 6:35 remaining.

In addition to completing 16 of 27 passes and being intercepted once, Johnson led Tampa Bay with 45 yards rushing on five attempts. LeGarrette Blount(notes), coming off consecutive 100-yard games, was limited to 19 yards on 11 carries.

Its very satisfying. The big thing thats really exciting is we have a bunch of young guys who have gone through so much, now theyre seeing some rewards, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said.

I think we do have a run in us. Weve got good football teams coming Atlanta, Houston, Tampa again, Rivera said. Weve got to continue to work. We need to finish strong. We do expect to build on this and gain momentum.

Joe Maddon updates injury status of Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks heading into Cardinals series

Joe Maddon updates injury status of Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks heading into Cardinals series

Kris Bryant will likely miss the first two games of this weekend's series against the St. Louis Cardinals and could miss the whole three-game set, according to Joe Maddon.

The Cubs manager said the reigning National League MVP will be sidelined as he recovers from a sore finger, injured when he slid head first into third base in the first inning of Wednesday's series-finale against the Atlanta Braves down in Georgia.

"He's just not ready today, but we're going to do this (as) a day-by-day thing," Maddon said. "I really don't know. If I had to guess, probably not tomorrow, too. And possibly on Sunday, but I really don't know.

"He healed well with the ankle, we did not expect that to come back very quickly and it did. So I'm just trying to not jump to conclusions right now."

"It's sore. It's just a soreness and he's got to grip the bat, and that's what it really comes down to."

The Cubs have suddenly closed within a game of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers after winning the first six games out of the All-Star break. Certainly losing Bryant for any time, no matter how brief, is a blow to the Cubs' lineup — and their rampage up the NL Central standings — but things could be way worse. A day-to-day situation is preferable to Bryant and his .401 on-base percentage heading for a lengthy stay on the disabled list.

Bryant's absence Friday meant right fielder Jason Heyward was at the top of the Cubs' lineup. It's just the third time Heyward has started in the leadoff spot since joining the Cubs. He was 0-for-7 in those two starts in June of last year.

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In addition to Bryant, there was an update of sorts on injured starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who could return to the rotation next week, per Maddon.

"More than likely next week, probably early next week. We're looking at that, but we're really not ready to make any other kinds of conclusions or announcements yet," Maddon said. "He's there. He's ready to rock n roll."

Hendricks' return to the rotation will be another shot in the arm for a starting staff that just received a huge upgrade in the form of Jose Quintana. Hendricks has been on the disabled list since June 8, when he went on the shelf with tendinitis in his right hand.

Hendricks logged 8.1 innings in two rehab starts with Double-A Tennessee recently, going 15 up, 15 down in his second outing. It sounds like he'll pitch in one of the four games against the White Sox next week.

Adding Hendricks and Quintana to a rotation featuring Jon Lester and an improving Jake Arrieta figures to make for a far different starting-pitching picture in the second half of the season following an inconsistent first half.

Will Cubs add another ace? Report says North Siders interested in Yu Darvish

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USA TODAY

Will Cubs add another ace? Report says North Siders interested in Yu Darvish

It's been a little more than a week since the Cubs altered the state of their pitching staff for years to come with that blockbuster crosstown swap that brought Jose Quintana to the North Side.

But are the Cubs looking to make another massive upgrade to their starting rotation before the trade deadline?

According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, the Cubs are interested in Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish.

Now it might not make too much sense at first blush for the Cubs, who dealt away their top two minor leaguers in the trade for Quintana, to acquire another frontline starting pitcher, especially one who unlike Quintana will become a free agent at the end of the season. After all, if the Cubs do want Darvish in the long term, they can wait a few months and go after him in free agency, losing no assets but money in the process.

The Cubs' rotation, once Kyle Hendricks returns from the disabled list, also looks pretty set with Jon Lester, Quintana, Jake Arrieta, Hendricks and John Lackey the presumed quintet for the remainder of the regular season, barring any other injuries of course.

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But Morosi makes some points, even if they might be speculative ones, that make a trade for Darvish seem not so ridiculous. After all, the Cubs did so much for their future in acquiring Quintana that a rental like Darvish to power a second straight run to the World Series might not seem so risky.

And while the Cubs' rotation is looking good right now with the team winners of six straight since the All-Star break, it was perhaps the team's biggest problem during that sub-.500 first half. Arrieta and Hendricks both failed to replicate the consistency that made them two of baseball's best last season. And Lackey has struggled mightily, still the owner of 5.04 ERA and a guy who's given up the 25 homers, the second most in baseball.

If the National League Central race remains as tight as it is entering play today, with four teams within four and a half games of each other, perhaps adding an extra dominant starter would assure the top spot in the division, which could be the team's only path to the playoffs. Even after a six-game winning streak to start the second half, the Cubs are five and a half games back of the Colorado Rockies for the NL's second wild card spot.

There's no doubt Darvish has been very good this season for the Rangers, with a 3.45 ERA in 20 starts and 131 strikeouts in 125.1 innings pitched. He's a four-time All Star in his five-year major league career. Adding that to Lester and Quintana at the front of the rotation would make the Cubs a terrifying force for opposing teams.

But at the same time, what would it take to get him? Giving up zero major league talent was part of what made the Quintana trade so terrific for the Cubs. Losing a major league player would perhaps hurt the team's chances at a World Series win this season, which would be the whole point of acquiring Darvish in the first place.

It's trade season, so let the rumors keep flying.