CHARLOTTE — With a camo towel tucked tightly atop his head, Cam Newton went to war Monday night against the New England Patriots.
The 24-year-old Carolina Panthers quarterback continued to show signs of maturity, leading his team to a thrilling 24-20 victory at Bank of America Stadium.
“I’m excited about today’s performance, on all cylinders, on all three phases of the game,” said Newton, who finished Monday night’s game with 209 passing yards, 62 rushing yards and three touchdowns. “Special teams, defense, as well as offense. Today was a very emotional game on a lot of different terms. We got a lot of help and a lot of support from our fans.”
Carolina (7-3) improves its overall record in 11 appearances on Monday Night Football to 7-4.
The win came despite some late-game dramatics from New England quarterback Tom Brady.
Completing 13-play, 83-yard drive, Newton’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn with 59 seconds left put Carolina ahead 24-20, erupting the sold out crowd.
However, the Patriots (7-3) had all three timeouts and marched all the way down to the Carolina 18-yard line.
The game’s closing moments were marred in controversy with what looked to be a defensive pass interference call on Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly on New England tight end Rob Gronkowski with no time remaining.
After the ball was intercepted by Carolina rookie defensive back Robert Lester, a flag was thrown on the play, but officials ruled no penalty after talking it over.
“There was no explanation given to me,” said New England coach Bill Belichick. “The officials ran off the field. The last time I started asking an official about a call, that was the wrong thing to do. So I have no idea.”
Brady, who finished the game completing 29-of-40 passes for 296 yards with one touchdown and one interception, was irate with officials following the game, following them into the tunnel area.
“(The official) didn’t say anything,” Brady said. “I didn’t really see the play either so I don’t know whether it was a good or bad call, but we had plenty of chances. I’m not going to make excuses. We could have done a better job tonight.”
The win is Carolina’s sixth in a row — its longest such streak since the 2005-06 season when the Panthers went on to play in the NFC Championship game.
“It was a gutsy win,” said Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. “It wasn’t one of our better defensive efforts, but it most certainly was one of our better offensive efforts.”
The Panthers have a short week, playing the Patriots’ AFC East rival — the Miami Dolphins — on the road Sunday.
Steve Smith hopes his team continues to carry the momentum.
“Watching that young man grow, that 24-year-old Cam Newton just chipping away, and a little bit of greatness is starting to shine through,” Smith said. “It was fun to be a part of.”