CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A season that began with the Carolina Panthers planning to use quarterback Cam Newton less in the running game for his long-term health ended with him setting career records in rushes, designed rushes and rushing yards.
Newton doesn't plan to stop running anytime soon.
"That's my edge," Newton said Wednesday as he prepared for Sunday's NFC wild-card playoff game at New Orleans. "I wouldn't expect you or anybody else to take it away. And when I say you, I mean the media as a whole.
"I'm comfortable running the football, I feel like I help the team when I'm running the football, and as long as I'm playing this game, I'm going to run the football."
Newton rushed for a career-best 754 yards on a career-high 139 carries, which included 108 designed runs. He became the fifth quarterback since the league merger in 1970 to lead his team in rushing, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Newton did all this despite carrying the ball only 14 times in the first three games as he continued to rehab from offseason surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff.
He had only three rushes for 16 yards when the Panthers (11-5) lost 34-13 at home to New Orleans in Week 3. He averaged 12.5 rushes per game over the past four games, including consecutive 14-carry games against the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
His six carries in a 31-21 loss to New Orleans on Dec. 3 was his fewest in the past six games and second-fewest in his last 13. But the Saints (11-5) are more than aware of what Newton the runner can do to a defense.
"Just try to make 'em as one-dimensional as possible, not allow Cam to run all over the place and affect the game with his arm and his legs," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said of New Orleans' strategy.
Newton said he runs because he wants to "help this football team in any way possible to win football games."
That includes raising his intensity level coming off a career-worst passer rating of 31.5 in a 22-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the regular-season finale.
"You better believe it," Newton said. "My intensity is different in practice. You're one of 12 teams that has fresh dirt on your cleats today. This is when the real football starts."
ESPN's Mike Triplett contributed to this report.