Newton, Panthers stun Falcons 30-20

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 9, 2012 at 8:31 pm •  Published: December 9, 2012
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It was all Carolina in the first half, beginning with the coin toss.

The Panthers hadn't won a coin flip all year until Sunday, causing team captain Jordan Gross to exalt at midfield by thrusting both arms into the air. Including overtime, the Panthers were 0-13 on coin flips.

"I've never seen people cheering so loud for a coin toss," Gross said with a laugh.

Carolina quickly took advantage, taking the opening kickoff and going 77 yards in 11 plays with Greg Olsen making a leaping grab in the back of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

That set the tone for the first half.

By the time Graham's Gano's third field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, the Panthers led 16-0 and had run 45 plays to Atlanta's 13, outgaining the Falcons 270-35.

Led by Newton, who had some big runs on third-and-long, including a highlight-reel 14-yarder in which he avoided three tacklers on third-and-11, the Panthers had 15 first downs to Atlanta's two.

"Our offense today is what I kind of thought it would be all year long," Gross said. "We passed well. We threw the ball. We ran the ball well. We blocked well."

Said Panthers coach Ron Rivera said: "This shows what we were capable of. That's the sad part."

Carolina didn't let up in the second half.

After the Panthers stuffed Atlanta on its first drive, Newton faked a handoff to DeAngelo Williams and raced 72 yards to the end zone, getting an assist from receiver Steve Smith, who took out two would-be tacklers with a big block around the 20. Newton somersaulted into the end zone for a 23-0 lead.

"I had a lot of practice blocking playing for (former Panthers) coach (John) Fox," Smith said, referring to Fox's tendency to run more than pass it while here in Carolina.

Ryan threw two touchdown passes and Michael Turner ran for one, but the Falcons couldn't catch up.

The Panthers put it away midway through the fourth quarter. After costly defensive holding penalty on cornerback Dunta Robinson, Williams caught a screen pass from Newton and raced 53 yards for a 30-13 lead.

NOTES: The Panthers played without starters wide receiver Brandon LaFell, running back Jonathan Stewart, linebacker James Anderson and safety Charles Godfrey. ... Rivera ended his news conference early after starting to get emotional talking about the comeback of Thomas Davis, who has battled back from three torn ACLs to be a major contributor this season. ... Atlanta had won eight of the past nine games against Carolina before Sunday's loss.

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