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Rivera 'crushed' by end of team's 100-yard rush streak

The Carolina Panthers' whitewash loss to the Atlanta Falcons snapped a streak of 35 straight games (including playoffs) with 100-plus rush yards. It had been the longest streak by any NFL team since the late 70s-era Steelers (37).

Coach Ron Rivera said he wants to start a new run.

"I know. I'm crushed by that, too," Rivera said of the snapped streak, via the Charlotte Observer. "Because I think it's important. I think it's something that we have to make sure we stay on top of.

"Our offensive line is a scrappy bunch, a physical bunch. And to be able to run for 100 yards is just indicative of their scrappiness and toughness. And I'd like to see us get back to that."

The Panthers barely broke 100 yards in Week 3 (105) and were held to 49 rushing yards against the Falcons after falling behind early.

A new streak is easier said than done. Cam Newton, the NFL's most consistent running quarterback, remains in concussion protocol. Starting running back Jonathan Stewart is dealing with a hamstring injury that's kept him out the past two contests.

Stewart worked on the side Wednesday. He's week-to-week but could miss a few more games.

Carolina's running game hasn't been the same without Stewart. Going back to last season, the Panthers are 14-1 and earn 145.2 yards per game with Stewart in the lineup. Without the starter, they are 2-3 with 118.2 rush YPG.

It's not just the 27-yard decrease that is the problem. Without Stewart, defenders worry less about the zone reads, making life tougher on Newton and his rushing yards harder to come by.

Cameron Artis-Payne, Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert will continue to share the load. No one has proven he can productively handle a workload. The Panthers could consider adding a veteran like Justin Forsett to bridge the gap until Stewart returns.

Stewart's injury history made entering the season without a reliable backup a tricky proposition -- one that is coming to nasty fruition.

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