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Panthers get payback vs. Falcons

– An unstoppable Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers got their revenge Sunday on the Atlanta Falcons.

Four days after Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy promised “payback” and “punishment” for the Falcons, Newton threw for 287 yards and scored on a 72-yard run in a 30-20 victory.

Newton piled up a career-high 116 yards on the ground and the Panthers racked up 475 yards overall, avenging a Week 4 loss to Atlanta and snapping a five-game losing streak to their Interstate 85 rivals.

Carolina (4-9) came in with little to play for except to gain a measure of revenge on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whom they felt disrespected them after Atlanta’s 30-28 come-from-behind win on Sept. 30.

Hardy was upset when television cameras caught Ryan cursing at the Panthers sideline, telling them to get off the Falcons’ field. Hardy responded by saying last week the Panthers were a “better team” than the Falcons, adding a variety of trash talk.

Ryan downplayed the war of words.

“I don’t pay too much attention to it,” said Ryan, who threw for 342 yards and two scores with one interception. “They were better than us today, that’s for sure.”

The Falcons, of course, are headed to the playoffs and Sunday was a speed bump in what has been an outstanding season.

It was all Carolina in the first half, beginning with the coin toss.

The Panthers hadn’t won a coin flip all year until Sunday, causing team captain Jordan Gross to exalt at midfield by thrusting both arms into the air. Including overtime, the Panthers were 0-13 on coin flips.

“I’ve never seen people cheering so loud for a coin toss,” Gross said with a laugh.

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