Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Cam Newton passed for 204 yards and a touchdown to lead the Carolina Panthers to a 30-15 victory over the St. Louis Rams at Bank of America Stadium.
Newton completed 15 of his 17 passes and ran for 26 yards on 10 carries. The Panthers (3-3) have won three of their last four.
"He has done a great job," Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said of Newton. "You talk about things that he does and his reads and learning to go through his progressions the right way. When you see him doing those types of things to give us a chance to win, you know that he has matured."
Steve Smith caught the lone touchdown pass from Newton and had five receptions for 69 yards. Mike Tolbert added a touchdown run on 13 carries for 36 yards, while Captain Munnerlyn had a 45-yard interception return for a score in the win.
Before leaving the game with a leg injury, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed 21 of his 30 pass attempts for 255 yards and a touchdown pass to Zac Stacy.
Stacy had four catches for 34 yards and also gained 53 yards on 17 carries for the Rams (3-4).
The first-half action was all Carolina. On the game's first play from scrimmage, Munnerlyn dove to intercept a Bradford pass after it was deflected by Quintin Mikell. He got up to return the pick 45 yards for a quick 7-0 Panthers' lead.
Each team went three-and-out on their next two drives before the Rams went 65 yards on 10 plays before until being stopped on the Panthers' goal line. After two 20-plus yard receptions which took the Rams to the four, Bradford threw an incomplete pass to Jared Cook on 4th-and-1.
The Panthers began their drive on their own 1-yard line after the defensive stop and handed the ball to Tolbert. Eugene Sims broke through and stopped him just inside the end zone, however, to record a safety that brought St. Louis within 7-2.
St. Louis started with the ball on its own 37-yard line after the safety. Stacy then ran for 21 yards on the first play of the drive, but Tavon Austin fumbled after making a catch two plays later and Munnerlyn recovered the ball for Carolina.
The Panthers took the ball 44 yards on nine plays following the fumble recovery to get a 37-yard Graham Gano field goal. During the drive, Newton found Ted Ginn short to his left for a 12-yard catch to the Rams' 19-yard line to make the field goal easier to manage.
On the Rams next possession, Bradford linked up with Austin with what would have been a 63-yard touchdown pass, but it was negated by a tripping penalty to tackle Jake Long, who fell to the ground and engaged a defender to give Bradford enough time to complete the pass. St. Louis eventually got a 28-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein after the nearly nine-minute 70-yard drive in 15 plays.
The score was 17-5 in favor of the Panthers with just over five minutes left in the half. A screen pass for 19 yards to DeAngelo Williams was followed by a pass to Olsen for 25. Newton then found Ginn for a 22-yard pass on 3rd-and-11 from the Rams 23-yard line. Tolbert pushed the ball across the goal line on the next play for a 1-yard touchdown.
The Rams attempted to find points with a minute left in the half, but had no luck.
The second half began with some fireworks. During the Panthers' first drive, Rams defensive end Chris Long was ejected from the game for throwing a punch during a shoving match between the teams. The 13-play, 61-yard drive saw five penalties as it unfolded, and led to a field goal with the help of some good goal-line defense by the Rams and an undisciplined personal foul by Tolbert on the 1-yard line. Gano kicked through his second field goal of the game, this one from 31 yards.
"Having to watch the rest of the game in the locker room was probably one of the low points of my career," Long said. "I can't let that happen again. I need to be stronger than that."
The Rams answered quick, with Bradford firing a 73-yard completion to Brian Quick on the first play of the ensuing drive. With possession on their opponents 7-yard line, Stacy ran three yards up the middle before Bradford found him leaking out to the right for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
The Panthers came right back to answer with a touchdown of their own, however, to make the score 27-12. Newton led an eight-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Smith. The wideout caught the ball short to the right side and made two defenders miss tackles before he walked into the end zone in the final minute of the third quarter.
St. Louis went three-and-out following the Panthers' touchdown and didn't help their cause by committing three penalties, one on each play.
Carolina took advantage of the Rams' mistakes once again, moving the ball 20 yards on five plays. Gano came in on 4th-and-2 at the St. Louis 32-yard line and kicked through a 50-yard field goal, his third of the game.
Bradford attempted again to bring the Rams closer. On the first play of the drive next drive, he found Austin for a 24-yard pass, then later hit Austin Pettis for back-to-back receptions. The drive still looked as if it was going to end without points until a third-down penalty on the Panthers that the ball to the Carolina 27-yard line of Carolina. The Rams couldn't muster any more yards and settled for a 42-yard field goal by Zuerlein with 9:13 left.
The Panthers went three-and-out to follow up that drive. St. Louis looked to cut farther into Carolina's lead, but on the fifth play of their drive, Bradford was shoved out of bounds on a scramble for a yard and was injured by Mike Mitchell on a legal hit. Kellen Clemens replaced Bradford.
Bradford made it to the sideline with help from team staff, but had to be carted to the locker room and was being evaluated for an injury to his left knee. He didn't return to the game.
Carolina's defense gave up their first touchdown in the red zone this season ... The Panthers defense caused four fumbles and had an interception ... Olsen had four catches for 47 yards for Carolina ... Austin had five receptions for 39 yards ... Gano was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals with a long of 50-yards ... Cook managed four catches for 33 yards for the Rams ... The Panthers go to Tampa Bay on Thursday night for their next game, while St. Louis will play Seattle on Monday night at home.