CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was determined to let his play speak loudest.
After hearing from a member of the New York Jets that the secondary was Carolina's soft spot, Munnerlyn answered on the field Sunday in the Panthers' 30-20 victory over the Jets at Bank of America Stadium.
"It fired me up a little bit, and I was ready to play football," Munnerlyn said, referring to the comments from Jets receiver Santonio Holmes. "I took that kind of personal. I don't think he had hardly any yards. We did a good job."
Munnerlyn returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown and recorded two sacks.
Running back DeAngelo Williams scored on a tiebreaking, 72-yard pass play late in the first half as the Panthers moved to the verge of clinching an NFC playoff spot.
A week after their franchise-record, eight-game winning streak was snapped by the Saints in New Orleans, the Panthers found the ideal response by swarming the Jets for most of the game.
"All we care about is the guys in this room," Panthers safety Mike Mitchell said, downplaying comments from opponents.
Carolina (10-4) has a rematch with New Orleans next Sunday, with the winner moving atop the NFC South standings. The Saints (10-4) fell into a tie for first place by losing to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
"We have an even bigger game next week," Carolina linebacker Jason Williams said. "Ten wins is good right now, but we've got to focus on the next thing."
The Jets (6-8) would be eliminated from playoff contention if the Baltimore Ravens beat the Lions on Monday night in Detroit. If the Ravens lose, the Jets must win their final two games and receive some help to make the postseason.
What the Jets said
"It ultimately bit me and our team in the butt by me doing so. I just have to do a better job at managing the situations, knowing that I don't have to force that ball. I can check it down and just live to fight another day." -- Jets QB Geno Smith, on throwing a fourth-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown.
What the Panthers said
"Early in the game, we've got to convert. We've got to be able to get in the end zone when we're in the red zone." -- Panthers FB Mike Tolbert, on the Panthers settling for a total of four first-half field goals the past two games.
What we learned about the Jets
1. LB Quinton Coples is capable of maintaining a solid pace of production. He has sacks in three consecutive games, with QB Cam Newton pointing out it was important to be aware of Coples' presence. Across a six-game period, Coples has been credited with 25 quarterback hurries. The problem for the Jets is sometimes they aren't getting enough push from the interior defensive front. That allows some quarterback to escape containment, something that Panthers QB Cam Newton had success doing.
2. There isn't enough offense for the Jets to afford them any room for error on defense or special teams. The Jets sputtered regularly against Carolina, though they managed to avoid their fifth single-digit point total of the season by scoring two second-half touchdowns. QB Geno Smith threw for 167 yards, which weren't nearly enough for a team dealing with a deficit for most of the game. "I'm going to be extra hard on myself after this one because I think had I not thrown that interception for a touchdown we would have had a great chance at the end," Smith said.
What we learned about the Panthers
1. The rushing defense isn't fool-proof as evidenced by the Jets chewing up chunks of yards on the ground in the first half and finishing with 157 rushing yards. But Carolina has a resilient defense and a week after the secondary was pierced it figures that there was some compensation to assisting the defensive backs in limiting big plays. Even though the Jets were held to 297 yards of total offense, the Panthers have a higher standard. "We gave up 20 points, which is far too many," S Mike Mitchell said.
2. RB DeAngelo Williams is willing and capable of handling a big role. With RB Jonathan Stewart out with another injury, the bulk of the backfield responsibility fell to Williams, who handled rushing and receiving duties with a purpose against the New York Jets. Williams picked up 169 yards of total offense (81 rushing, 87 receiving). "From the pass reception (of 72 yards for a touchdown) to the running, he just had a great game," Panthers RB Mike Tolbert said. "It just seemed like he was in the zone. It seemed like something that's meant to be."