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Panthers 30, Rams 15

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers scored on defense on the game's first snap and the offense eventually pitched in for a 30-15 victory against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned an interception for the game's opening points as the Panthers (3-3) won for the second week in a row.

The outcome snapped the Rams' two-game winning streak.

Quarterbacks Cam Newton of Carolina and Sam Bradford of St. Louis each tossed one touchdown pass. Bradford, who threw for 255 yards on 21-for-30 passing, exited with an injury with 5:06 to play.

On the first play from scrimmage, Munnerlyn dove to pick off Bradford's pass, with no Rams in the area. Munnerlyn got to his feet and made a 45-yard return to the end zone, barely avoiding stepping out of bounds.

Carolina's offense did enough, chewing up second-half minutes.

A 13-play drive resulted in Graham Gano's 31-yard field goal after eating up more than eight minutes of the third quarter on the half's first possession.

On the drive, the Panthers reached the St. Louis 1-yard line and used a replay challenge hoping that receiver Steve Smith reached the end zone. When that call wasn't overturned, two dives into the line by fullback Mike Tolbert didn't produce a score, and then Tolbert was called for unsportsmanlike conduct to thwart the drive.

The Rams responded in a hurry, with Bradford's 73-yard hook-up with Brian Quick coming two plays before a 4-yard pass to Zac Stacy, giving St. Louis its first touchdown on its third trip inside Carolina's 10-yard line. That trimmed the deficit to 20-12.

The Panthers were back in charge on the next drive, with Newton connecting with Steve Smith on a 19-yard touchdown play.

Gano's 50-yard field goal created a 30-12 advantage with 11:32 left.

St. Louis botched scoring opportunities, unraveling with penalties in the second half.

The Rams drove to inside the Carolina 1-yard line on their second possession of the game, but Bradford didn't have an open receiver and threw an incompletion on fourth down.

It wasn't a total lost cause for the Rams. On Carolina's next snap, Tolbert was tackled in the end zone by defensive end Eugene Sims for a safety.

The Panthers built a 10-2 lead on Gano's 37-yard field goal on the second play of the second quarter.

St. Louis had a 63-yard Bradford-to-Tavon Austin touchdown pass wiped out by offensive lineman Jake Long's tripping penalty. The Rams eventually converted on the possession with Greg Zuerlein's 28-yard field goal.

Tolbert scored on a 1-yard plunge with 1:05 left in the first half as Carolina held a 17-5 edge at the break.

St. Louis defensive end Chris Long was ejected with 9:45 remaining in the third quarter during a post-whistle fracas that involved players from both teams.

NOTES: These teams are former division rivals, though they hadn't met since 2010. The Panthers lead the all-time series 12-8. ... Smith's touchdown catch in the third quarter came on his 800th career reception. ... CB Cortland Finnegan of the Rams remained sidelined with a hamstring injury. ... Former Rams receiver Torry Holt, who is from North Carolina, met with some of the team members prior to the game. ... The Panthers played their only home game during a five-week stretch, which included their open date. They're at Tampa Bay next week for their first game against a NFC South Division opponent. ... The Rams will be at home for three of their next four games, including next week for a Monday night game against the Seattle Seahawks.
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