On Sunday Cam Newton raced from one end of the Carolina Panthers’ sideline to the other in the final moments of a 38-0 rout of the Atlanta Falcons, raising his arms to the crowd as fans cheered on their emotional MVP candidate. Newton said with a smile as he praised the team’s fan base following his victory run “I believe right now it’s our moment as Panthers. We try to seize it as much as possible.”
The fifth-year quarterback completed 15 of 21 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns, and the unbeaten Panthers snagged a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs in what Newton described as the team’s most complete game. The Panthers outgained the Falcons 424-230, forced four turnovers and matched the franchise’s largest margin of victory.
The game was never close. Jonathan Stewart ran for a 1-yard touchdown and Newton connected on scoring strikes of 74 and 46 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. as the Panthers (13-0) scored on their first three possessions to take 21-0 first quarter lead.
Newton also threw a 4-yard TD pass to Ed Dickson in the final seconds of the first half before leaving for good at the end of the third quarter with Carolina up 38. He finished with a career-high quarterback rating of 153.3, and the Panthers won their 17th straight regular-season game.
Carolina’s defense had two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and registered five sacks. It was a devastating loss for the slumping Falcons (6-7), who started 5-0 but have lost six straight.
The two teams meet again on Dec. 27. The Panthers can snag the No. 1 seed before then if they beat the New York Giants and Arizona loses.
It seems the biggest issue the Panthers might have between now and the playoffs will be balancing winning and staying healthy because there were some scary moments for Carolina on the injury front. Stewart (left ankle), who ran for 75 yards, and tight end Greg Olsen (left knee) left the game in the second quarter and did not return.
However Coach Ron Rivera said both players could have returned to the game, but were held out because the team had a commanding lead. Although Rivera said starting cornerback Bene Benwikere broke his left leg and is done for the season.
Newton left for a play in the second quarter after hitting his funny bone but he returned to throw his third TD of the game to Dickson, who made a diving catch on a slant for a 28-0 lead. It marked the 11th straight game the Panthers have scored at least 27 points.
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