CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An unstoppable Cam Newton and the Panthers got their revenge on the Falcons.
Four days after Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy promised "payback" and "punishment" for the Falcons, Newton threw for 287 yards and scored on a 72-yard run in Sunday's 30-20 win.
Despite missing four starters and having 13 players on injured reserve, the Panthers dominated the NFC South champions. Newton piled up a career-high 116 yards on the ground, and Carolina racked up 475 yards overall, avenging a Week 4 loss to Atlanta and snapping a five-game losing streak to its Interstate 85 rival.
It was Newton's first victory in four tries over his hometown team, and he said it was special.
"I think this game allows me to have a little chip on my shoulder," Newton said.
Carolina's defense was superb through 2½ quarters, helping build a 23-0 lead and a 356-86 edge in total yards.
The Panthers had little to play for other than revenge on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whom they believed disrespected them after Atlanta's 30-28 come-from-behind win Sept. 30.
Hardy was upset when television cameras caught Ryan cursing at the Panthers sideline, telling them to get off the Falcons' field. Hardy responded by saying last week the Panthers were a "better team" than Atlanta.
After Sunday's win, Hardy turned the tables, repeating several times what Ryan told them in Week 4 as he walked off the field. At one point Falcons kicker Matt Bryant shot back at Hardy, "Watch us in January (in the playoffs)."
Hardy left the locker room before media members were allowed in.
Ryan downplayed the war of words.
"I don't pay too much attention to it," said Ryan, who threw for 342 yards, two scores and one interception. "They were better than us (Sunday), that's for sure."
Said Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn: "It's tough to say that we're overall better than the Falcons because they're 11-2, but I like Greg's confidence."
Atlanta coach Mike Smith said he'll use the loss as a "teaching point" and "we have to play our best football here in the fourth quarter" of the season.