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Monday, December 16, 2013
Upon Further Review: Panthers Week 15

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- An examination of five hot issues from the Carolina Panthers' 30-20 victory over the New York Jets:

Playoff picture: The Panthers (10-4) are back in control of their own destiny in the NFC South. Beat New Orleans (10-4) on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium and beat Atlanta on the road, and they are division champions with a first-round bye in the playoffs. As for the wild card, the Panthers, Saints and San Francisco 49ers all are 10-4. Arizona is a game back at 9-5. Should by some chance Carolina, San Francisco and Arizona finish tied, the Panthers hold the tiebreaker edge. If Carolina finishes tied with the 49ers, it still holds the edge based on a 10-9 win earlier this season. Carolina can clinch a playoff spot this weekend with a win or a combination of losses for Arizona, San Francisco and Detroit, or losses for Arizona, San Francisco and Chicago.

Newton
Newton
Munnerlyn
Stubbed toe: Quarterback Cam Newton went into the locker room with one play left in the first half to have a toe injury looked at. Newton stubbed the toe on a late third-down scramble when he was tackled hard by Muhammad Wilkerson. It wasn't serious, and the Panthers never took X-rays. Newton played the entire second half without any worries. "It'll be all right," he said. "It was a shocker at first. As the game progressed it loosened up.''

Crash landing: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn isn't one to rub something in somebody's face. He leaves that to safety Mike Mitchell for the most part. But after Jets receiver Santonio Holmes made it personal by saying the secondary was the weakness of Carolina's second-ranked defense, Munnerlyn couldn't resist imitating Holmes' airplane move in the end zone by holding both arms out like he was flying. Then he added his own wrinkle, falling to the ground like a crashed jet. It drew him a 15-yard penalty and likely a fine from the league this week, but he doesn't care. "I've never been called out like that before,'' Munnerlyn said. "I have never been a part of nothing like that. If you think that, I've never heard anybody say it. And he went out publicly and said it."

Riverboat Ron: I still don't believe coach Ron Rivera should have gone for it on fourth-and-3 midway through the fourth quarter with a 16-6 lead. A 19-6 lead might have broken the Jets' back. Instead, they answered with a touchdown to make it 16-13 and put a scare into the home crowd. But you have to commend Rivera for his continued aggressive nature and having confidence in his defense to stop the Jets. It's a big reason they are where they are today.

Blocked kick: The Panthers hadn't blocked a punt all season until Jason Williams blocked Ryan Quigley's kick early in the fourth quarter with Carolina leading 16-13. That led to a touchdown that made it 23-13 and all but ended this one. Carolina saw something the Jets were doing in punt coverage on tape earlier in the week. Williams came to the sideline before the block and told the special-teams staff he thought he could get around the snapper to the kicker. He went in untouched. "It was probably the easiest block I'll ever have," Williams said.