CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Quarterback Cam Newton said the Carolina Panthers didn't come close to playing their best game Sunday.
And yet they still beat their division rivals by 24 points.
Carolina's 34-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons was its fourth straight and pulled the Panthers to a game behind division-leading New Orleans in the NFC South.
"That's growth, and that's what you need to see," Newton said. "For us it's coming out each and every day and proving to ourselves that we're not going to play lights out each and every day, but we still can hold ourselves accountable that if a mistake happens... we're going to (come back and) make something happen."
Said tight end Greg Olsen: "At the end, beating that team by that margin and not having your 'A' game, that's a sign of a good team."
Newton was the first to admit he struggled, particularly in the first half.
He had two interceptions, but the Panthers still led 14-10 at the break and put the game away by outscoring the Falcons 17-0 in the final quarter. Newton led five scoring drives. He finished with 249 yards passing and threw for one touchdown and ran for another.
Coach Ron Rivera thinks it's a good sign the Panthers are expecting more of themselves as a team every week.
"I think it's an indication as where we're starting to evolve as a football team," Rivera said. "But we've still got a long way to go because we missed some opportunities early in the game and those were a couple of them. Defensively we gave up some big plays. We don't want to do that. We want to keep it in front of us. If teams are going to score against us they've got to earn it."