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(Sunday, December 15th)
Final Score: Carolina 30, NY Jets 20
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.
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 22:11:29 ET