The Panthers are back in prime position in the NFC South. A week after relinquishing control of the division in a lopsided loss to New Orleans, the Panthers bounced back in a big way Sunday, taking care of the New York Jets 30-20 at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers (10-4) used a blocked punt by backup linebacker Jason Williams and a record-setting interception return for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn to pull away in the fourth quarter. The win means next week’s rematch with the Saints in Charlotte will be for control of the South. The Saints lost 27-16 to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, dropping New Orleans to 10-4. Wins in the next two games would give the Panthers the NFC South title and at least one home game in the playoffs. The Panthers admitted they were paying attention to the Saints-Rams score, too. Coach Ron Rivera said he couldn’t help but take several glances at the scoreboard to get updates from St. Louis. Several players said they did the same. “We saw it. I think it’s hard not to, right?” tight end Greg Olsen said. “We knew it would be even harder to swallow losing a game when something like that bounces your way. So it was imperative that we pull this game out, and we did.” The Panthers led the Jets (6-8) only 16-13 early in the fourth quarter before Williams came free up the middle and blocked Ryan Quigley’s punt, giving Carolina possession at the Jets’ 14 and setting up Mike Tolbert’s 1-yard touchdown run. On the Jets’ ensuing series, Munnerlyn cut in front of Jets receiver Santonio Holmes on a slant route to pick off rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Munnerlyn regained his balanced and raced into the end zone for a 42-yard score to put the Panthers up 30-13 with 8:17 remaining.
Panthers top Jets 30-20
Charlotte Observer | Dec 16