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                   === Newton helps Panthers top Falcons ===
 
 Charlotte,  NC  (Sports Network)  - 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.
 
                                   Game Notes
 
 Carolina  outgained Atlanta, 270-35, in the first half and 475-362 overall ...
 The  Panthers were 9-of-15 on third down, while the Falcons finished 2-of-8 in
 those situations.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 12/09 19:10:39 ET