CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton talked all week about how much better the Carolina Panthers were on offense then they showed in their season opener. He proved it on Sunday.
The second-year quarterback threw for 253 yards and ran for a career-high 71 yards and led the Panthers to a 35-27 win over New Orleans and leaving the NFC South champion Saints 0-2 for the first time since 2007.
"Times change," wide receiver Steve Smith said of Carolina's first win over New Orleans since 2009.
Coach Ron Rivera said a loss to Drew Brees and the Saints would have been tough to take especially with a tough game coming up Thursday night against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
"The way we responded as a team this week was outstanding," Rivera said. "I think the attitude, the effort was great."
The Panthers tied a club record last week with 10 yards rushing in a loss to Tampa Bay.
They had no such problems moving the ball against the Saints. They got the running game going in the second quarter and rolled up 219 yards on the ground and 463 overall,
Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert all scored on short touchdown runs and Steve Smith overcame a sore knee to finish with 104 yards receiving — the 39th 100-yard receiving game of his career.
Jonathan Stewart hauled in a 17-yard touchdown catch for the Panthers (1-1) and Brandon LaFell had six catches for 90 yards.
Newton kept the Saints off balance all day, running eight times for 66 yards in the first half as coordinator Rob Chudzinski used a variety of plays that allowed Carolina to take a 21-13 halftime lead.
"You do read option, read option, read option and then get them to play seven or eight in the box and you've got so many variations of plays and passes you can run off that," Newton said.
Added Tolbert: "The zone read was one of the plays that we saw on film that they was kind of vulnerable to. It was working so we stuck with it. They weren't fitting the gaps right on that play."
When the Saints began to figure things out, Newton would find open receivers who beat one-on-one matchups on the outside.
On one second half play there was not a defender within 20 yards of Smith when he hauled in a pass from Newton along the right sideline and raced 66 yards before being dragged down.
"I was shocked just as much as anybody," Newton said. "Of all of the people on this field to be wide open, you would think Smitty would be the last person. But that is what type of pressure the zone read gives us."
Panthers tackle Jordan Gross said bouncing back from last week's poor offensive outing was big. Gross said he's never been on a team that has run the ball as poorly as the Panthers did last week.
"We played like we're capable of," Gross said. "I would expect days like this to be the standard, not last week."
The Saints, meanwhile, have serious concerns on defense.