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PLAYOFFS
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         === Panthers take down Jets, move closer to playoff berth ===
 
 Charlotte,  NC  (SportsNetwork.com) -  Cam Newton  threw for  273 yards with a
 touchdown  as the  Carolina Panthers moved one step closer towards clinching a
 playoff berth with a 30-20 win over the New York Jets.
 
 Newton  completed  16-of-24 throws,  including  a  72-yard touchdown  pass  to
 DeAngelo  Williams. Williams carried 15 times for 81 yards in the triumph, and
 Carolina  (10-4)  improved to 9-1  in its last 10  tilts. The Panthers had won
 eight straight before getting routed by the Saints, 31-13, in New Orleans last
 week.
 
 The  Panthers  will have the  opportunity to clinch  a playoff berth next week
 when they host the Saints in a rematch.
 
 "We  had an opportunity  to play those guys last week and came up short," said
 Newton, "but on our turf with our situations, we'll be great."
 
 Captain  Munnerlyn had two sacks and an interception for touchdown to lead the
 Panthers' D and Graham Gano kicked three field goals.
 
 "It  was  a team victory,"  said Panthers head coach  Ron Rivera. "We did some
 good things on offense, defense and special teams."
 
 New  York (6-8)  quarterback Geno Smith's rocky freshman campaign continued on
 Sunday.  The  West Virginia  product  threw  a  late  touchdown pass  to  Jeff
 Cumberland,  who  caught three passes for  50 yards, but his pick-six early in
 the fourth stanza gave Carolina a comfortable 30-13 lead.
 
 Smith completed 15-of-28 for 167 yards, nearly half of which came in the final
 period with the game out of hand.
 
 New  York's playoff hopes,  which were  slim entering play,  became even  more 
 bleak with its fourth loss in five games.
 
 "Obviously,  that's  not our intent going  into the season or any other time,"
 said  Jets head coach Rex Ryan. "We want to win it all. That's been clear from
 the day I took the job."
 
 On  Carolina's second  possession of  the contest,  Newton fired  a strike  to
 Brandon  LaFell down the  seam for 36 yards down to the Jets 19. LaFell picked
 up  another first down  two plays later when he gained six yards on a reverse,
 but  Calvin Pace  sacked Newton on 3rd-and-goal to set up Gano's 35-yard field
 goal.
 
 Nick  Folk matched the second longest field goal of his career when he drilled
 a 54-yarder as time expired on the first quarter, knotting the score at 3-3.
 
 After  another Carolina trip to the red zone resulted in a Gano kick, the Jets
 carved  up the NFL's  top rush defense with runs of 35 and 15 yards from Chris
 Ivory and Bilal Powell for a trip of their own. But two straight incompletions
 by  Smith forced New York to go to its field goal unit, and Folk hit a 28-yard
 kick to make it 6-6.
 
 The  Panthers finally found the end zone late in the first half. On first down
 from  his own 28, Newton faked a screen to his left then came back with a dump
 off  to his right.  Williams hauled in the short reception, made a move to the
 outside and sprinted down the right sideline for his first touchdown reception
 of the season and longest catch of his career.
 
 Gano  added another  field goal to close  out the half and give the Panthers a
 16-6 lead.
 
 Carolina  marched down  the field  early in  the third  quarter but  failed to
 convert a 4th-and-2 from the Jets 14, leading the New York's best drive of the
 game.  On  third down,  Smith maneuvered  to his  right and  threw back to the
 middle  for  Cumberland, who lumbered 35  yards down the field to the Panthers
 28.
 
 Later  in  the drive, a defensive  pass interference call on Melvin White gave
 the  Jets a fresh  set of downs from the Carolina 2. New York reached into its
 bag  of tricks  and handed off to rookie defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson,
 who broke the plane for his first career touchdown plunge.
 
 Early  in  the fourth, Jason  Williams made the play  of the game for Carolina
 when  he burst  through the line and blocked Ryan Quigley's punt. The Panthers
 took  over at the  14-yard line and Mike Tolbert walked into the end zone four
 plays later for a 23-13 advantage.
 
 Munnerlyn  then stepped  in front of Smith's pass intended for Holmes and took
 it to the house for his second defensive touchdown of the season.
 
                                   Game Notes
 
 Ivory carried 11 times for 66 yards,  while Smith added 44 yards on the ground
 ... Greg Olsen had  five catches  for 88 yards  for Carolina ... The Jets host
 Cleveland next Sunday.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 12/15 22:11:56 ET