Newton leads Panthers past Falcons
Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Cam Newton threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score in the Carolina Panthers' 34-10 victory over the struggling Atlanta Falcons.
Newton completed 23-of-37 passes for 249 yards and two interceptions for the Panthers (5-3), who have won four in a row.
Greg Olsen caught four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown for Carolina, which now trails New Orleans by one game for first place in the NFC South after the Saints lost to the Jets on Sunday.
Matt Ryan connected on 20-of-27 passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions for the Falcons (2-6), who fell to 0-4 on the road this season.
Tony Gonzalez caught six passes for 81 yards and a score for Atlanta, which has lost two in a row. Steven Jackson carried the ball 13 times for 57 yards.
The Panthers jumped out to an early lead thanks to Luke Kuechly's interception of Ryan. Steve Smith gave Carolina a fresh set of downs with an 18-yard catch on 3rd-and-7, and the Panthers picked up another first down when Desmond Trufant was called for defensive pass interference on 3rd-and-4. Mike Tolbert capped the series with a 4-yard TD run.
The Falcons responded with a 13-play, 80-yard drive in which Gonzalez came up with three big catches to help move the ball to the Carolina 2-yard line. On Jackson rumbled into the end zone on third down, but the score was nullified by an offensive holding penalty and the visitors had to settle for a 28-yard Matt Bryant field goal with 14:09 left in the first half.
Atlanta got the ball back after Trufant picked off Newton on the following drive. The Falcons, though, went three-and-out.
Ted Ginn's 24-yard return of the resulting punt set up the Panthers at the Atlanta 34. On 4th-and-1, Newton found Olsen wide open off a play-action pass for a 14-yard score that made it 14-3 Carolina.
The Falcons responded with a touchdown of their own. Harry Douglas caught a 41-yard pass on the first play of the series, and Gonzalez caught a 14-yard pass on 3rd-and-3 before his 17-yard TD reception.
With time winding down in the first half, Newton led the Panthers down to the Atlanta 19-yard line. The Panthers came up with zero points, however, when Robert Alford picked off Newton in the right corner of the end zone.
Carolina got a 55-yard field goal from Graham Gano in the early stages of the third quarter to extend the lead to 17-3. Thomas Davis picked off Ryan with 3 1/2 minutes left in the stanza to end a potential Atlanta scoring chance.
The Panthers scored a touchdown in the early stages of the fourth to create some distance. Brandon LaFell caught a 23-yard pass before recovering his own fumble at the Atlanta 8-yard line, and Newton followed with a rushing touchdown to make it 24-10 with nine minutes to play.
Thirty seconds later, Drayton Florence essentially sealed the victory with a 38-yard interception return of Ryan for a touchdown.
Gano added a 20-yard field goal with 1:13 remaining.
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, who was activated off the physically unable to perform list Saturday, carried the ball nine times for 43 yards in his season debut ... Carolina offensive lineman Jeff Byers left the game with an ankle injury ... The Panthers have scored at least 30 points in each of their last four games ... Falcons wide receiver Roddy White missed his third straight game due to ankle and hamstring issues.
11/03 16:54:51 ET