“We can’t just stop and say, ‘Hey, let’s pop bottles. Let’s do this and let’s do that. Let’s celebrate, order some hot wings and pizza,’” Newton said.
The need to win isn’t quite as pressing for the Patriots (7-2), who hold a two-game lead over the New York Jets in the AFC East.
Still, Brady and the Patriots seem to thrive in the spotlight. Brady is 13-4 in Monday night games with 41 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
“It will be fun,” said Brady, now in his 13th season. “These games are getting later and later in the year and they are getting more and more important.”
Five things to watch in the Patriots-Panthers game:
BRADY’S BIGGEST TEST: Brady torched the Steelers for 432 yards and four touchdowns before the bye week, but he hasn’t seen a defense quite like the Panthers this year. Carolina comes in allowing the second-fewest points and yards in the league. “They play great team defense and they have every stat — third down, red zone area, sacks and turnovers. They got it all,” Brady said. “We have to play really well and our execution has to be right on.”
FAST STARTS: New England coach Bill Belichick said the Patriots must bring intensity right from the start. The Panthers have yet to allow a touchdown in the first quarter and have led every game at halftime except last week at San Francisco, when they trailed 9-7. “Us being able to be ready to go and being able to match that — the intensity and the execution that they have — will be a key part of this game,” Belichick said.
WILLIAMS AND COMPANY: There’s no doubt the Panthers’ 10th-ranked rushing offense will look to run the ball against a run defense that ranks 30th in the league. Carolina’s offense features a trio of solid running backs with a now healthy Jonathan Stewart teaming with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert.