The last time he took the field, Jonathan Stewart fumbled twice, nearly cost the Panthers a win, and sparked a new wave of chatter about rookie Christian McCaffrey replacing him as the Panthers’ starting running back.
Monday night, he repaid the faith the team showed in him, and showed that he’s still got it.
The 30-year-old running back had a season-high 110 yards in the Panthers’ demolition of the Dolphins, and popped a few long runs that showed the burst of a younger man. He also did the Fred Flintstone bowling move, tiptoeing down the sidelines on one run. In short, it was something other than the 2.9 yards and a cloud of rust he showed earlier this season, or the mistakes of the previous game.
“I was definitely hard on myself,” Stewart said, via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. “That was one of my first times, really, experiencing that type of deal. . . . To know that I contributed to two fumbles last week, that stung me. You feel like you let your team down. . . .I had to deal with that for the whole week.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he could tell his veteran back was ready for a big game.
“A lot of people said some things about him and Jonathan just wanted to make sure everybody understood,” Rivera said. “I think, first of all, he came back and you could see it on his face. There was a little bit of resolve. . . . He blamed himself. Even though we won the game, he took it very, very hard.
“You saw the competitiveness of who he is come out.”
Stewart’s physical running was helped by the Panthers adjusting their offense (again) with the trade of Kelvin Benajmin. Stretching the field with more vertical routes eased things for the running game, and his ability to make plays could make their offense dangerous again.