The Panthers opened the game with scoring drives of seven minutes, 11 seconds and 9:17, allowing the Falcons' potent offense a total of 6:12 in the first half. A 72-yard touchdown run by Newton and a 53-yard screen pass from Newton to RB DeAngelo Williams gave the Panthers enough second-half scoring to pull away.
The teams had some bad blood after the Panthers lost the first game in Atlanta on a late Falcons score. After the game, Atlanta QB Matt Ryan shouted expletives at the Panthers, telling them to get “off my field.” The Panthers' defense sacked Ryan twice and intercepted him once, helping to overcome a 342-yard passing day.
When the game turned: After settling for field goals on the final three drives of the first half, the Panthers had first down on their 28 early in the third quarter. Newton faked a handoff to Williams and ran around the left side of the line. TE Greg Olsen blocked S Thomas DeCoud to open a lane and Newton ran up the left sideline. WR Steve Smith blocked S Chris Hope twice inside the Falcons' 10, and Newton somersaulted into the end zone with the second-longest touchdown run in Panthers history -- a 23-yarder giving them a 23-0 lead.
Highlight moments: The Panthers won the coin toss for the first time this season. They chose to receive and marched downfield. Newton was 5 for 5 for 48 yards, finishing the drive by throwing a 25-yard pass to a diving Olsen in the end zone. … Early in the fourth quarter, QB Ryan threw an 11-yard pass to Julio Jones to cut the Panthers' lead to 23-13. Ryan appeared to hit Roddy White in the corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion that would have made it a one-possession game. Referees ruled that White dropped the ball as he hit the ground. … Trailing by 10 with 7:30 to play, Ryan led the Falcons to midfield. DE Greg Hardy, who took offense to Ryan's comments during the week, broke through the line and made a one-armed sack, and two plays later, LB Thomas Davis intercepted him on fourth-and-8 to end the Atlanta threat.
- Panthers QB Newton -- 23 of 35 for 287 yards, 2 TDs, 9 rushes for 116 yards, TD
- Panthers WR Steve Smith -- 7 catches for 109 yards
- Falcons WR Roddy White -- 9 catches for 117 yards, TD
What they said about winning the coin toss and the early momentum:
- Panthers OT Jordan Gross -- “I've never heard the crowd cheer so hard for winning a coin toss."
- Panthers QB Newton -- "We went out and set the tone early."
- Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon -- "We started flat. That's something we've got to work on."
What they said about Davis' first interception since returning from his third ACL surgery:
- Panthers OT Gross -- “His story -- they should make a movie.”
- Panthers LB Davis -- “After everything I've gone through the last two-and-a-half years, to go out there and be able to make a play and have an impact on the game -- it's a long time coming.”
- Panthers QB Newton --"Thomas is an emotional person, an impact player and a vocal leader. When he talks, everybody listens."
What they said about Newton and the Panthers' offense:
- Panthers OT Gross -- “The offense today is what I thought it would be all year long. It was fun to be a part of and fun to watch.”
- Panthers coach Ron Rivera -- "Cam was spectacular. It shows you what he has the potential to become."
- Panthers QB Newton -- "I don't want to say I'm in the zone. The whole offense is clicking."
- Panthers LB Weatherspoon -- "He made some explosive plays. We just have to get him down."
Numbers you should know: The Panthers scored on their first five drives and didn't have to punt until 2:45 remained in the third quarter. … Steve Smith had the 43rd 100-yard game of his career, tying him with Tim Brown and James Lofton for 10th in NFL history.
Injury update: Falcons -- CB Asante Samuel was active after missing practice all week with a shoulder injury, but he didn't play. … Panthers -- C
Going forward: Falcons -- Atlanta returns home to face the New York Giants, followed by a trip to Detroit. The Falcons have wrapped up the NFC South and are looking to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. Panthers -- Carolina travels to San Diego, where coach Ron Rivera will be facing the team he left when the Panthers hired him.