Cam Newton threw for 170 yards and a touchdown and ran for 60 yards and another score as the Carolina Panthers beat the Oakland Raiders 17-6 in their home finale on Sunday.
It was the third straight victory and fourth in five games for the Panthers, who improved to 6-9 after a 2-8 start.
After each team traded punts on their opening possessions, Carolina struck first when Newton hit Steve Smith for a 23-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter.
On the next Oakland possession, quarterback Carson Palmer was knocked out of the game after a hard hit by Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who was flagged for roughing the passer on what appeared to be a clean hit.
Matt Leinart, Palmer's backup, couldn't revive the stagnant Raiders offense. The former first-round pick finished 16-for-32 for 115 yards and an interception.
Sebastian Janikowski's 21-yard field goal cut the Panthers' lead to 7-3 midway through the second quarter, but a Luke Kuechly interception and run back set up the Panthers offense in Raiders territory with under two minutes remaining in the half.
Ron Rivera's team took advantage of the good field position with a four-play, 29-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a three-yard Newton run just before time expired in the second quarter.
Neither team could get much going on offense in the second half.
The Raiders were able to cut the Panthers' lead to 14-6 behind a 31-yard Janikowski boot in the fourth quarter, but that's as close as they would get.
Any chance of an Oakland comeback was dashed after Graham Gano's 51-yard field goal extended the Carolina lead to 17-6 with just under three minutes to go.
It was an ugly, chippy game all the way through. There were six unnecessary roughness penalties called, including one on Cam Newton for bumping into official Jerome Boger.
Although Boger acknowledged that the contact was not malevolent, the second-year quarterback immediately apologized after the game.
Newton also appeared to kick Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly after a second-quarter sack. Kelly, who was penalized for unnecessary roughness when he pushed back, admitted to trying to take out the Panthers quarterback after Carson Palmer was knocked out of the game.
"You take our guy out, we're going to go and try to take your guy out," Kelly said after the game, according to the Associated Press. "We're not out to hurt someone, but when that happens …"
The Panthers finish up the 2012 season on the road against the NFC South-rival New Orleans Saints. Most people believe that the team has to win the game for head coach Ron Rivera to have any chance at returning for a third season.
Carolina won the first meeting 35-27 in Week 2, but New Orleans was a 45-17 victor when they two teams collided in last year's season finale.
- Ironically, the last time these two teams met before Sunday (Nov. 9, 2008) also ended in a 17-6 Panthers win.
- Rookie left guard Amini Silatolu left the game on the second play with a dislocated wrist.
- Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly was fantastic, finishing with 13 tackles and one interception. During one sequence, he had six tackles in seven plays.
- Running back DeAngelo Williams struggled to find room to run, finishing with just 19 yards on 10 carries.
- Tight end Greg Olsen led the Panthers in receiving with six catches for 53 yards.
- Wideout Steve Smith finished with four grabs for 45 yards and his fourth score of the season.
- The Panthers held the Raiders to just 47 yards rushing. Darren McFadden had 33 yards on 17 carries. Former Panther Mike Goodson gained 12 yards on four attempts.
- Punt returner Joe Adams was replaced by Armanti Edwards after losing his third fumble of the year in the third quarter.
- The Panthers won for the first time when Cam Newton throws an interception.
Check out the video below to see Cris Carter break down the game on ESPN's Sunday Blitz.