4:05 PM ET, December 15, 2013
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn didn't need a whole lot of motivation heading into Sunday's game against the New York Jets coming off a rough outing last week against New Orleans.
But Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes provided some anyway.
Holmes said last week the Panthers' secondary was the "weakest link" of their defense, and Munnerlyn set out to prove him wrong.
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Santonio Holmes set the tone for a resounding Jets loss with his "weakest link" line about the Panthers' secondary, Rich Cimini writes. Story
Cam Newton threw for 273 yards and a touchdown, Munnerlyn had two sacks and returned an interception 42 yards for a score and the Panthers bounced back from their most lopsided loss of the season with a 30-20 win Sunday over the Jets.
"I just wanted to get into his head and be real physical with him," Munnerlyn said of Holmes. "I took that kind of personal that he said we were the weakest link on defense. And we just went out there and executed."
Carolina's victory, combined with New Orleans' 27-16 loss to St. Louis on Sunday, pulled the Panthers (10-4) even with the Saints in the NFC South with the teams playing next Sunday in Charlotte. Carolina can capture the division title and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs by winning its next two games.
"We control our own destiny once again, which is great for us," said Newton, who improved to 23-23 as a starting NFL quarterback.
Said Rivera: "The ball is in our court."
Rivera admitted he did a little Saints-Rams scoreboard watching during the game.
"A few too many times, to be honest with you," Rivera said. "I did get distracted a couple of times. ... I did hear the crowd cheer and when I looked up they showed the score, so that caught my attention."
Carolina's defense wasn't distracted.
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After surrendering 313 yards passing and four touchdowns to Drew Brees in a 31-13 loss to the Saints last week, the Panthers limited rookie quarterback Geno Smith to 167 yards passing and sacked him four times. Munnerlyn's interception return in the fourth quarter sealed Carolina's ninth win in 10 games.
"I let Rex (Ryan) down today," Smith said. "He had talked me about not having a turnover. I wanted to do that today. On one occasion, I got sloppy with it and forced it. I didn't get it done. Ultimately, in this league, that's something I've learned, that's what it comes down to -- one or two plays here or there."
Holmes had two catches for 17 yards.
"They played pretty good," Holmes said of Carolina's secondary. "They came out with a victory and did what they had to do."
The Jets will be eliminated from playoff contention if Baltimore wins at Detroit on Monday night.
Newton injured his right toe just before halftime, but remained in the game and never missed a snap. He was an efficient 16 of 24 passing, including a 72-yard touchdown on a screen pass to DeAngelo Williams. Williams, who saw increased action with Jonathan Stewart out, had 81 yards rushing and 87 yards receiving.
The turning point came in the fourth quarter with the Panthers leading 16-13.
The Jets had a chance to take the lead, but failed to pick up a first down and Ryan Quigley's punt was blocked by Jason Williams and downed at the Jets 14. Four plays later, Mike Tolbert bowled his way into the end zone on a 1-yard run to make it a two-possession game.
Williams said he and special teams coach Richard Rodgers picked up on something the Jets were doing in the first half and used it to their advantage.
"We noticed they were shifting their wing out to the side of the punt and bringing a PP (personal protector) down on the line, which leaves no one in the backfield," Williams said. "It basically gave me a one-on-one with the long snapper."
Said Rivera: "That play really kind of sparked us."
On New York's next series, Munnerlyn then stepped in front of Smith's pass on a slant route and returned it for his fifth career TD return -- a franchise record.
"Captain is a dynamo and had a really good week of practice and it showed," Rivera said. "I told him he set the bar really high for next week."
The Panthers broke open a 6-6 tie late in the first quarter when Newton faked a screen pass to the left, spun around and threw back to the other side of the field to a wide-open Williams. The 30-year-old running back beat linebacker David Harris to the right sideline and turned it up the field, getting a smothering block from wide receiver Brandon LaFell en route to a 72-yard touchdown reception.
Greg Olsen had 88 yards receiving in five catches. ... The Jets ran for 157 yards, the most allowed this season by the Panthers. ... Of Munnerlyn's seven career interceptions, five have been returned for touchdowns.
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 15: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs onto the field before their against the...(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.0||6.3|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||2-3||1-5|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||1|
|FG||4:43||Graham Gano 35 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 9 plays, 50 yds, 4:37
|FG||0:01||Nick Folk 54 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 10 plays, 44 yds, 4:39
|FG||6:49||Graham Gano 22 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 15 plays, 85 yds, 8:14
|FG||3:53||Nick Folk 33 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 9 plays, 65 yds, 2:57
|TD||3:42||Deangelo Williams 72 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Graham Gano Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 72 yds, 0:20
|FG||0:13||Graham Gano 40 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 6 plays, 34 yds, 2:00
|TD||3:23||Sheldon Richardson 1 Yard Run (Nick Folk Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 86 yds, 4:46
|TD||11:18||Mike Tolbert 1 Yard Run (Graham Gano Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 14 yds, 1:45
|TD||8:30||Captain Munnerlyn 41 Yard Interception Return (Graham Gano Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 10 yds, 2:48
|TD||3:56||Jeff Cumberland 8 Yard Pass From Geno Smith (Nick Folk Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 72 yds, 4:27
DeAngelo Williams had 168 total yards Sunday, the second most he has had in a game in the last four seasons. Williams had 87 receiving yards (the second most in his career) and a touchdown, all on screen passes. Entering Week 15, only two players had more screen yards in a game this season.
Cam Newton was 7-of-10 for 139 yards and a touchdown against five or more pass rushers. His 13.9 yards per attempt against added pressure is the highest of his career (min. 5 attempts). Geno Smith didn't have the same success against added pressure as he was sacked four times. Smith has been sacked 25 times against additional pressure, second most in the NFL.[+]
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