- Associated Press - Saturday, October 18, 2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - At 6 feet 7 and 287 pounds, Julius Peppers is an imposing figure.

But even the veteran pass rusher realizes just how tough it can be to tackle Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.

Now imagine the 6-foot-5 Newton carrying the ball with a running head start coming around the edge. This is the predicament facing Peppers and the Green Bay Packers when the Panthers visit Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Newton ran a career-high 17 times for 107 yards and a touchdown in the Panthers’ 37-37 tie last week with Cincinnati. Ankle and rib injuries had limited Newton up that point.

“It’s one thing to have pressure on him and get to the quarterback. It’s a totally separate thing to get to him and bring him down,” Peppers said. “That’s where he’s different than a lot of other quarterbacks, whereas it’s another tall task to take him down once you finally get to him.”

Running the ball could be a good idea against the league’s worst-ranked rushing defense, though the Packers (4-2) have held each of their past two opponents to no more than 112 yards rushing.

Carolina (3-2-1) got Jonathan Stewart back in practice from a knee injury at midweek. Fellow running back DeAngelo Williams remains out with a sprained ankle while Mike Tolbert is still sidelined by hairline fracture in his leg.

This left the running game with Newton and designed read option plays.

“Whatever’s asked of me to win a football game - obviously, we didn’t win it - but I’m willing to do anything to win a football game,” the fourth-year quarterback said.

If nothing else, Newton’s performance on the ground last week has given coach Mike McCarthy one more thing to think about in playing the Panthers.

“It’s a concept we spent a lot of time (working on) today at practice,” McCarthy said about defending the read option. “Obviously Cam Newton runs it very well, he’s been running it for quite some time.”

Peppers has been around longer. The North Carolina native who starred at the University of North Carolina was drafted by the Panthers in 2002.

Peppers chased quarterbacks for eight seasons in Carolina, where he amassed 81 of his 120 sacks. He moved on to Chicago for four seasons before coming to Green Bay this season.

Playing the Panthers is no big deal anymore for Peppers.

“Well, it’s special because it’s the next game and a game that we really need to win,” Peppers said. “The emotional part of it, not so much.”

Some things to watch in the teams’ first meeting at Lambeau Field since the Panthers won 35-31 in 2008:

ROLLING RODGERS: The Packers have a pretty good quarterback of their own in Aaron Rodgers, who has 10 touchdown passes without throwing an interception during Green Bay’s three-game winning streak.

“When you watch him on tape you see the decisions he makes, and he makes great decisions. And he makes his own style,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “I see a lot of positives out of what he does for them.”

SHORT-HANDED: Receiver Kelvin Benjamin leads NFL rookies with 416 yards receiving, though he sat out practice at midweek after suffering a concussion in the Bengals game. Not having Benjamin would be another blow to an offense already minus a few key players.

TEMPO TIME: It’s all about tempo for Green Bay. With Rodgers leading the way, the Packers like to push the pace out of three-receiver sets. The hope is that it creates mismatches with defenses that may not be able to substitute against one of the game’s smartest and most accurate quarterbacks. The downside to playing at such a pace is that it might keep the Packers defense on the field longer. McCarthy has the run ball more the past two weeks.

TOP LINEBACKER: Speaking of smart players, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is someone who might be able to go move-for-move with Rodgers. The Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 is considered Carolina’s “defensive quarterback” by Rivera. Carolina is 26th in defense through six games, taking a step back from last season, though Rodgers is keenly aware of what Kuechly can do.

“Yeah, he’ll be definitely on my mind,” Rodgers said. “He’s a very smart player. He has good ball skills in coverage. He’s a sideline-to-sideline player.”

INJURIES: The Packers may have to go without starting cornerbacks Sam Shields (knee) and Tramon Williams (ankle) after each veteran got hurt last week against Miami. McCarthy was more optimistic about Williams after both defensive backs missed practice at midweek. Green Bay does have good depth at that position, where Casey Hayward and Davon House could play more if the starters are limited or sidelined.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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