CHARLOTTE — After Houston running back Arian Foster scored on a 1-yard run to pull the Houston Texans to within 8 points last weekend, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton could feel another second-half lead slipping away.
So the rookie had some words for his offensive teammates, who responded with a pair of fourth-quarter drives that sealed the 28-13 win - the Panthers' biggest of the season.
But Newton said it was the words of two of the team's offensive linemen before the game - not Newton's in the huddle - that had the biggest impact.
Newton called tackle Jordan Gross and center Ryan Kalil the "real heroes" after they pulled Newton aside and told him he needed to improve his body language and keep his negative emotions in check during games.
"They always get on me - I have a bad tendency of showing my emotions on my face. I have to change it, and I'm trying to change it," Newton said Wednesday. "But those guys constantly stay in my ear, saying, 'You've got to be that same leader from the first quarter to the last quarter.'
"And with them saying that, just that little statement that was said right before the game, it made me mindful it can be somewhat of detrimental conduct to the team. If you're mad. If you're ticked off. Not saying that everybody else is not feeling the same way you (are). But at the quarterback position, you have to stay even-keeled."
Newton has drawn criticism for hanging his towel-covered head on the sideline after bad series. In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Newton referred to himself as a "lion" and talked about the need for his teammates to match his desire to win.
Gross said the Panthers respect Newton's competitiveness, but were not crazy about his comments to ESPN.
"I can't imagine the way it was portrayed was the actual way that he wanted it to come across. I do believe that he thinks he's a winner, and he doesn't like that we've been losing," Gross said. "We've been teasing him about his comments now to let him know we don't necessarily like it, but we're still his teammates. And he's handling that well."
Gross said he likes Newton better now than he did when Newton began his career with consecutive, 400-yard passing games against Arizona and Green Bay.