Rookie Newton leads Panthers over Redskins, 33-20

Panthers' Cam Newton is sacked by Redskins' Brian Orakpo in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - For once, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers got to play with a lead instead of trying to erase another late-game deficit. That left the rookie to celebrate with fans instead of suffering through another frustrating loss.

Newton ran for a touchdown and threw for another in the second half to help the Carolina Panthers beat the Washington Redskins 33-20 on Sunday.

Jonathan Stewart also ran for a third-quarter touchdown for the Panthers (2-5), who for the first time all year found themselves playing with the lead almost the entire way.

Newton threw for 256 yards and ran for 59 more. He ran for his seventh touchdown on a 16-yard keeper in the third quarter, tying a record for most TDs rushing by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
In the fourth, he had an easy touchdown toss to Brandon LaFell that blew the game open.

Washington's John Beck threw for 279 yards and scored on a short keeper in his first start in four years. But he didn't get the Redskins (3-3) back to the end zone again until they were down 30-13.

The past month had followed a familiar pattern for Newton and the Panthers: trail late in close games only and repeatedly fall short. Probably the worst moment came here two weeks ago, when the Panthers gave up the go-ahead touchdown to Drew Brees and the Saints with 50 seconds left in a loss that left Newton growing more frustrated by the day.

But this time, Newton got the chance to keep the pressure on the Redskins instead of trying to pull off his own desperate comeback. The No. 1 overall draft pick responded to that challenge, coolly leading Carolina to three straight touchdown drives after entering the second half with a 9-6 lead.

He completed 18 of 23 passes in an efficient performance, with Steve Smith hauling in seven for 143 yards. More importantly, Newton didn't commit a turnover after throwing three interceptions in last week's loss at Atlanta.

It was clear how much Newton enjoyed finally getting his second win. When it was over, he ran to the front row of fans and gave high-fives on his way to the locker-room tunnel.

After Beck answered Newton's TD run with one of his own, Newton twice found Smith downfield on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Stewart's 2-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 23-13.

Then, after the Panthers forced a three-and-out, Newton found Smith downfield again with a perfectly thrown deep ball that Smith hauled in at the 1 for a 36-yard gain. Three plays later, Newton connected with LaFell to make it 30-13 with 8:13 left.

As for Beck, he earned the starting job after Rex Grossman threw four interceptions in last week's ugly home loss to Philadelphia. It was his first start since December 2007 with the Miami Dolphins - and he remains winless in all five career starts.

He completed 22 of 37 passes and threw a late touchdown to Fred Davis after the game was out of reach.

It didn't help that Beck lost top receiver Santana Moss and tailback Tim Hightower to injuries, either.

Moss hurt his left hand in the first half and spent the rest of the half watching from the sideline while wearing a bulky wrap on the hand.

Hightower - who got the start and had run for 88 yards on 17 carries - hurt his left knee on a 4-yard carry in the third quarter. He was helped off the field and eventually carted to the locker room from the sideline. Neither player returned.