Carolina Panthers top Atlanta Falcons for fourth straight win
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are on a roll.
Newton threw for one touchdown and ran for another to overcome a shaky start, the defense intercepted Matt Ryan three times and Carolina beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-10 for its fourth straight victory.
Newton entered on quite a streak, completing 77 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns — six passing and two rushing — and no turnovers in his previous three games.
He had two first half interceptions and wasn't sharp on his deep balls, regularly overthrowing his receivers. Yet he bounced back to throw for 249 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen. He also ran for an 8-yard touchdown.
"He got a little carried away early on and tried to make things happen," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "He sailed the ball a little bit because he was a little anxious."
Fullback Mike Tolbert scored his fifth touchdown in the last four games on a 4-yard burst and cornerback Drayton Florence intercepted Ryan and returned it 38 yards for a score to seal the win.
Ryan was 20 of 27 for 219 yards.
The Falcons continued to struggle without Julio Jones and Roddy White. Tony Gonzalez had six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown but the Falcons were held to 78 yards rushing.
The Panthers got a huge break early in the fourth quarter.
Leading 17-10, Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell broke free in Atlanta territory for a big gain but had the ball punched out from behind by Asante Samuel. The Falcons had a chance to recover, but the ball bounced right back into LaFell's arms while he was on the ground.
Newton scored on an 8-yard run on the next play to give Carolina a 24-10 with nine minutes remaining.
The Panthers put the game away on the next possession when Florence stepped in front of a pass in the flat and returned it for the score — the first "pick 6" allowed by the Falcons since 2010, a span of 47 games.
Carolina led 14-10 at halftime despite the two interceptions by Newton.
Newton struggled with downfield passes and his 13-quarter streak of turnover-free football ended when he was picked off by Desmond Trufant on a long pass to Ted Ginn Jr. in the second quarter. Newton turned it over again in the final seconds of the first half on an interception by rookie Robert Alford in the back of the end zone, ending a golden scoring opportunity.
Atlanta's only touchdown of the game came when Ryan hooked up on a 17-yard strike with Gonzalez in the back of the end zone.
The Falcons might have had more, but Steven Jackson's 2-yard touchdown run was nullified on a holding penalty on lineman Garrett Reynolds forcing the Falcons to settle for a Matt Bryant field goal.