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Panthers stay perfect with wild, nasty win over Giants

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrates a TD in the third quarter.

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrates a TD in the third quarter.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After one of the strangest and nastiest games this NFL season, Cam Newton had an odd feeling.

His Panthers had just shrugged off a record-tying Giants comeback to remain perfect with a wild 38-35 victory Sunday. Newton, who threw for five touchdowns to further state his case for most valuable player honors, wasn't quite sure what he'd just been through.

"It was kind of a weird feeling in that locker room, and I'm still feeling kind of weird, but not enough to (not) celebrate," said Newton, who also rushed for 100 yards. "We're just trying to find a way to get victories."

New York tied the score after trailing by 28 points in the third quarter. But Graham Gano's 43-yard field goal as time expired made Carolina the fourth team in league history to start 14-0.

It was Carolina's 18th straight regular-season victory. Newton has thrown for 19 touchdowns in the past five games and a career-best 33 in this so-far special season.

But in a game in which Carolina's pursuit of perfection was supposed to be the focus, Odell Beckham's wild play is what many will remember.

The standout Giants receiver was flagged three times for unsportsmanlike contract, including on one play in which he came from the sideline for a helmet-to-helmet block on Panthers cornerback Josh Norman in the middle of the field.

It looked oh so easy when NFC South champion Carolina led 35-7 with 5:32 left in the third quarter. Then the Giants matched San Francisco's 28-point rally — from the same score — against New Orleans in 1980. The 49ers won that game in overtime.

The Giants tied it at 35 when Beckham — involved in a game-long shoving and jawing session with Norman — got behind Norman for a 14-yard touchdown catch with 1:46 to go. Beckham lost his cool several times as Normangot the best of him.

"He's got the maturity of a little kid," Norman said.

But after the Giants tied it, Newton calmly guided the Panthers 49 yards to the winning kick.

"To go out there and just let them drive down the field is just mind-boggling," said Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter.

Play ranged from chippy to vicious, particularly as the Panthers banged Beckham around. At one point Norman crashed into him and Beckham wrestled Norman to the ground.

Norman also drew a flag for hitting Beckham in the helmet. And after his tying score, Beckham appeared to taunt Norman before he ran to midfield in celebration.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he considered sitting Beckham for some plays but didn't.

"He did lose his composure," Coughlin said. "I think throughout the course of the game he regained it."

Beckham tried to explain his actions.

"You are a competitor. I'm a competitor. We are always going to go at it," he said. "Anybody who has played sports — you are competitive and you are going to go as hard as you can."

NFL spokesman Michael Signora said Sunday night: "The disqualification of a player is a judgment made by the on-field officials. The actions of the players involved in unsportsmanlike conduct will be reviewed as per the standard protocol that is followed in all situations of this type throughout the season."

Meanwhile, Newton stayed calm. And the Panthers stayed perfect.

Bucs are out

The Bucs' playoff chances were slim after consecutive losses dropped them to 6-8. Now their chances are none. Tampa Bay was eliminated from the NFC race by virtue of the Vikings and Seahawks winning Sunday. Game roundups, 4-5C

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Panthers stay perfect with wild, nasty win over Giants 12/20/15 [Last modified: Sunday, December 20, 2015 10:44pm]
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