CHARLOTTE, NC (Michael Persinger/ The Charlotte Observer)- The Carolina Panthers' 44-16 victory over Washington will be remembered for Cam Newton's five touchdown passes to five different receivers, but the defensive numbers were equally impressive.
The Panthers effectively made Washington's offense one-dimensional and invited Kirk Cousins to beat them. He wasn't up to the task.
Carolina allowed 14 rushing yards and nine first downs. Only only two big plays – a 56-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson when Colin Jones slipped and a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – kept the game from being more lopsided.
The Panthers had five sacks, five fumbles forced, and five takeaways including Kurt Coleman's interception.
You like that?
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who says his team still has a chip on its shoulder despite the 10-0 start, did.
"If we continue to roll and make things happen, we'll validate ourselves eventually," he said.
The Panthers, who have won 14 consecutive regular season games, travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
Rivera was asked if it bothered him that the talk will be about Thanksgiving at Dallas and the return of Tony Romo from injury, not the undefeated Panthers.
"That's fine," he said. "We're moving forward. We talk about staying focused on the task at hand."
That task is a short week, then the Cowboys.
"We've set a schedule that will be beneficial to the players and still give the coaches a chance to get ready for Dallas," Rivera said.
Three who mattered
Cam Newton: His career high for touchdown passes in a game before Sunday was three (seven times). He had four with 5:14 to play in the second quarter and five overall, tying the franchise record held by Steve Beuerlein. They covered 27 yards. Newton finished 21 of 34 for 246 yards, and watching from the sidelines as Derek Anderson finished up. His quarterback rating was a season-high 123.3.
Jonathan Stewart: With 21 carries for 102 yards, plus a receiving touchdown, Stewart kept the chains moving all day.
Kirk Cousins: True to the scouting report, Cousins was accurate on short and intermediate passes, completing 22 of 30 for 207 yards, a touchdown and an interception. But his longest completion other than the 56-yarder to Jackson was 17 yards.
- Kony Ealy had his fourth strip sack in four weeks to stop a Washington drive late in the first half, and Ealy recovered fumble. Then Bené Benwikere got a strip sack to open the second half, leading to a Panthers touchdown and a 38-14 lead.
- Andre Roberts ran away from Carolina’s Tre Boston and Fozzy Whittaker on his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that tied the score at 14. It was the first the Panthers have given up since 2009.
- Stewart got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after his 12-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter after Jeron Johnson went low but legal on him at the goal line. Stewart tossed the football at Johnson and was flagged for taunting. Didn’t even get his money’s worth.
- Kurt Coleman’s interception to set up Carolina’s first touchdown was his fourth, tying him with Josh Norman for the team lead.
- There were a good number of Washington fans in the crowd, perhaps 15,000, a number heartily debated in the pressbox. Many of them were gone before the final whistle.
- A potential interception for a touchdown by Washington’s Chris Culliver was called back for unnecessary roughness penalty for going to Greg Olsen’s head to jar the ball loose. Culliver, from Raleigh, also let loose with a throat slash caught on TV but not by officials.
- Graham Gano’s 42-yard field goal on the final play of the first half gave Carolina a 31-14 lead and the highest-scoring first half in team history.
- The Indianapolis Colts’ 24-21 victory over Atlanta (6-4) means the Panthers lead the NFC South by four games with six to play.
- Olson (three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown) passed Wesley Walls for most receiving yardage by a tight end in Panthers history. He’s at 3,925 yards as a Panther.
They said it
"I liked the way he went after the football. Very Kelvin-esque." – Panthers coach Ron Rivera on the performance of rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess.
"We have to get better, I can tell you that. The first drive was a three-and-out, and we can't let that happen. Winning covers up a lot." – Cam Newton, on where the Panthers go from here.
"You can't really predict the game, but I think it would have been a different ballgame right there when (Culliver) made the play. Made the tackle and made the interception, but the game is in the hands of the refs." – Washington's Jason Hatcher, on the pick-six reversed by penalty.