CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are enjoying a late-season dose of success even though they can't reach the playoffs.
This sure beats the alternative.
The Panthers defeated the Oakland Raiders 17-6 on Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium, lifting them to their first three-game winning streak in three years.
"We kind of got a taste of winning this year," rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly said after the team's third consecutive victory. "You kind of piece them together and it feels good. We know we can win and be consistent."
Quarterback Cam Newton threw for a touchdown and ran for another, allowing the defense to take care of the rest against the offensive-hurting Raiders.
"The guys on this team want to be good and want to win," Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross said. "Our situation this year isn't letting us get into the playoffs, but that doesn't mean the guys aren't practicing and winning games in December, which is something we all need to learn how to do."
In a game between two teams already eliminated from playoff contention, the Panthers (6-9) had to fend off limited threats produced by Raiders backup quarterback Matt Leinart in a game that involved three former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.
Oakland (4-11) failed to produce a touchdown for the second game in a row. Leinart played the last three-plus quarters after Carson Palmer left with injured ribs.
"A little bit rusty, but you always have to be ready to play," Leinart said. "There's some throws I want back and all that. ... I was a little antsy in there because I haven't played. I wasn't as comfortable as I should have been in the pocket."
The Raiders, trailing 14-6, reached the Carolina 24-yard line before turning the ball over on downs with 5:19 to play when Leinart's pass was batted by defensive end Greg Hardy. Their next possession failed to produce a first down.
Newton wasn't flawless, unable to direct a second-half scoring drive until the final minutes in the team's home finale. Graham Gano's 51-yard field goal gave the Panthers a 17-6 cushion at the 2:46 mark.
"It's respect. It's pride," Newton said of the Panthers' motivation. "Is it too late? Some may say that. ... If we want to be a playoff-type of team we want to be, it's going to come down to winning games in November and December. We're trying to get that in our pedigree moving forward."
Newton had the longest active streak in the NFL without an interception (a team-record 176 passes) until his 25th pass of the game was intercepted by Raiders rookie linebacker Miles Burris on the last play of the third quarter. The pass was tipped by linebacker Philip Wheeler to Burris, who made a diving catch for his first career pickoff and a 7-yard return to the Carolina 18-yard line.
The Raiders settled for Sebastian Janikowski's 31-yard field goal, pulling within 14-6.
"There were some plays that were left on the field," Leinart said. "I thought we moved the ball pretty well. We just have to get touchdowns."
Newton's 23-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Steve Smith opened the scoring in the first quarter, capping an 88-yard drive.
Palmer didn't last through the first quarter after he was clobbered by Hardy, who was called for roughing the passer for leading with the helmet while pressuring Palmer outside the pocket. Initial X-rays were negative, though Palmer was sent to a Charlotte hospital.
Leinart, who had thrown only one pass all season entering the game, directed a 73-yard second-quarter drive that stalled at the Carolina 3-yard line and resulted in Janikowski's 21-yard field goal.
"I thought our defense kept us in the game, gave us some opportunities," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "We just weren't able to take advantage of those opportunities. We've just got to score more points."
Leinart, a former first-round draft selection of the Arizona Cardinals, completed 16 of 32 passes for 115 yards.
Kuechly's interception of Leinart and 25-yard return to the Oakland 29 set up Newton's 3-yard run on a scramble with 17 seconds left in the first half.
The Panthers initially failed to increase their second-quarter lead when Gano's 48-yard field goal attempt with 1:41 remaining drifted wide right.
The Raiders botched a chance to take advantage of recovering Carolina punt returner Joe Adams' fumble in the third quarter at the Panthers 32.
"We just came out with that mentality, no matter where they get (the ball) on the field, we weren't going to let them score," Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson said.
Newton was 18 of 29 for 170 passing yards. He led all players in the game with 60 rushing yards.
Newton was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct in the fourth quarter after brushing into referee Jerome Boger, who later said through a pool reporter that he misspoke in announcing the infraction. He said Newton should have been penalized for "disrespectfully addressing the official" because the contact wasn't of a malicious nature.
Kuechly, a first-round draftee out of Boston College, set the franchise's single-season record for tackles in the first quarter with his 140th.
Oakland has won only one of seven road games this year.
Notes: Panthers OG Amini Silatolu suffered a wrist injury on the first series of the game and didn't return. ... Oakland lost DB Phillip Adams and S Tyvon Branch to injuries during the game. ... Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor caught a first-quarter pass from Palmer, who lined up in a receiver's spot and took a toss from Pryor before returning the ball to him. ... The Panthers lead the all-time series 3-2. ... The Panthers announced their 103rd consecutive sellout, though there were hundreds of empty seats.