Newton helps Panthers top Falcons

Updated: December 10, 2012

It’s been a struggle for Cam Newton this season, but the sophomore signal caller had a day reminiscent of his record- setting rookie campaign.

Newton threw two touchdown passes and broke off a 72-yard TD scamper in the Carolina Panthers’ 30-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

“With the way he played and the things that he did that shows what potentially what he might become,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said of Newton.

Newton was 23-of-35 for 287 yards and added a career-high 116 yards rushing on nine carries for the Panthers (4-9), who snapped a five-game losing streak to Atlanta.

“This shows what we are capable of,” Rivera said. “That’s the sad part.”

Steve Smith hauled in seven balls for 109 yards in the triumph.

The Falcons (11-2), meanwhile, will have to wait at least another week to clinch a first-round playoff bye.

Matt Ryan tallied 302 of his 342 yards in the second half and finished 34- of-49 with two scores and an interception for Atlanta, which had its three- game winning streak snapped.

“We did not execute up to our standards,” Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. “We didn’t play anywhere near our potential … We have to put this one behind us as soon as possible.”

Roddy White caught nine passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in the setback.

Carolina outperformed Atlanta in all facets of the game through the first two- plus quarters.

On Carolina’s initial possession of the second half, Newton faked an inside handoff to DeAngelo Williams and burst through a huge hole along the left side of the line before scampering 72 yards down the left sideline for a 23-0 margin with 11:01 remaining in the third quarter.

To that point, the Panthers outgained the NFC South champs, 356-66, held a 17-4 advantage in first downs and had a 25:56-8:03 edge in time of possession.

Ryan finally got into a groove on the Falcons’ second touch of the second half. He was 7-of-9 for 63 yards on the 13-play, 84 yard march, which was capped when White hauled in a 4-yard TD catch.

The Panthers were forced to punt on their next possession and again, Ryan led his troops right down the field.

Ryan found Tony Gonzalez over the middle for an 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 before Julio Jones took a wide receiver screen pass for an 11-yard TD. Ryan’s pass to White on the two-point conversion was ruled incomplete and Atlanta trailed, 23-13, with 13:57 left in the final frame.

The Falcons defense forced another Carolina punt on its ensuing touch, and Ryan’s pass on 4th-and-8 was intercepted by Thomas Davis on Atlanta’s next trek.

Williams took a screen pass 53 yards for a score on the fourth play of Carolina’s subsequent possession to make it 30-13 with 4:11 left, putting the game out of reach.

Michael Turner’s 1-yard TD plunge with under a minute left concluded the scoring.

Earlier, the Panthers, who hadn’t won a coin toss all year until Sunday, took their opening touch of the game 77 yards in 11 plays. Greg Olsen made a leaping grab in the back of the end zone for a 25-yard score.

Graham Gano nailed field goals of 24, 41 and 31 yards over Carolina’s next three possessions as it took a 16-0 lead into the break.

The Panthers ran 45 plays in the first half, while the Falcons had just 13.