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Newton, Panthers starting to hit their stride

Monday - 12/10/2012, 8:21am  ET

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) scrambles for a gain as Atlanta Falcons' Vance Walker (99) chases during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- After struggling to score points and move the chains for much of the season, the Carolina Panthers' offense has suddenly hit its stride.

Too bad it's too late in the year to make a difference.

At 4-9 the Panthers won't be playing in the postseason, which makes Carolina's 30-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday a little bittersweet.

"This shows what we were capable of," coach Ron Rivera said. "That's the sad part."

Cam Newton threw for 287 yards and scored on a 72-yard run as the Panthers piled up 475 yards. The second-year quarterback ran for a career-high 116 yards to help the Panthers snap a five-game losing streak against their I-85 rivals.

Said offensive tackle Jordan Gross: "Our offense today is what I kind of thought it would be all year long. We passed well. We threw the ball. We ran the ball well. We blocked well."

For Newton, it was his first victory in four tries against his hometown team and he admitted after the game it was a special feeling.

"I think this game allows me to have a little chip on my shoulder," said Newton, last year's AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Since Week 9, Newton has 15 TDs (11 passing, four rushing) and two turnovers.

"I think this whole offense is clicking and you know, we've just got to connect the dots," Newton said.

Carolina's defense was superb through 2
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