CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers' defense was back in fine form Sunday during Carolina's 30-20 victory over the New York Jets at Bank of America Stadium.
Running back DeAngelo Williams scored on a tiebreaking 72-yard pass play late in the first half, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown 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.
Carolina (10-4) has a rematch with New Orleans next week with a chance to move atop the NFC South standings.
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.
Carolina linebacker Jason Williams blocked a fourth-quarter punt, allowing the Panthers to take possession at the New York 14. The play set up running back Mike Tolbert's 1-yard touchdown run with 11:05 to play as the Panthers took a 23-13 lead.
Less than three minutes later, Munnerlyn picked off Jets quarterback Geno Smith and ended up in the end zone. It was Munnerlyn's franchise-record fifth interception return for a touchdown in his career.
Smith connected on 15 of 28 passes for 167 yards. His lone touchdown pass went to tight end Jeff Cumberland from 8 yards out with 3:50 left in the game.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton completed 16 of 24 passes for 273 yards and one touchdown.
The Jets, who posted a season-high point total in last week's 37-27 victory against the Oakland Raiders, didn't score a touchdown until defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, filling in as a fullback, bulled in from 1 yard out to conclude a nine-play, 86-yard drive with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Carolina had a chance to build on a 16-6 edge with its first possession of the third quarter, but Newton threw incomplete on fourth-and-2 from the New York 14.
The Panthers won three of four games against AFC foes, making them the only NFC South team with a winning record against the other conference.
The Jets, who dropped to 1-6 on the road, gained 93 first-half yards on the ground against a Carolina defense yielding a league-low 79.4 rushing yards per game.
The teams traded field goals in the first half until DeAngelo Williams rambled for a touchdown on a swing pass from Newton.
Kicker Graham Gano added a 40-yard field goal with eight seconds to play in the half to give Carolina a 16-6 lead.
The Panthers struck first on Gano's 35-yard field goal at the 4:39 mark of the first quarter.
The Jets tied it on the last play of the opening quarter on kicker Nick Folk's 54-yard field goal. That made Folk 15 of 16 from 40-plus yards this season.
Carolina settled for Gano's 22-yard field goal on its next possession, which went 85 yards on 15 plays but stalled after reaching first-and-goal at the New York 2.
Folk hit from 33 yards out to make it 6-6 with 3:49 remaining in the first half.
Until DeAngelo Williams' touchdown reception, the Panthers were in danger of being limited to two first-half field goals for the second game in a row.
NOTES: Jets team captains for the game included S Josh Bush, FB Tommy Bohanon, LB Calvin Pace (all former Wake Forest players) and LB Quinton Coples (out of the University of North Carolina) as a tribute to returning to the state where they played in college. ... Pace notched a first-quarter sack, giving the 11-year veteran a career-high nine for the season. ... Panthers WR Steve Smith became the 22nd player in NFL history to reach 12,000 receiving yards with a catch in the first minute of the second quarter. ... The Jets placed WR Stephen Hill on injured reserve and signed WR Saalim Hakim from the practice squad. ... Panthers LB Chase Blackburn played a home game for the first time in more than a month after a foot injury caused him to miss the previous two home games (and three overall). ... Carolina LB Thomas Davis played in his 100th career game. ... The Jets, who dropped to 3-1 against NFC opponents, play their home finale next week against the Cleveland Browns.