CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton is thriving and Sam Bradford is hurting.
Newton completed 15 of 17 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown and the Panthers defeated Bradford and the St. Louis Rams 30-15 in a heated game Sunday.
In the past two games Newton is 35 of 43 for 464 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions as the Panthers (3-3) have won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
The Rams (3-4) lost their cool with several personal foul penalties — and then lost Bradford to an apparent left knee injury late in the fourth quarter.
The extent of the injury was unknown, and he will have an MRI exam on it.
Bradford was running toward the sideline when he was pushed out of bounds by safety Mike Mitchell and came up holding his left knee. He was carted to the locker room.
It was a rough day all around for Bradford.
Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn intercepted him on the game's first play and returned it 35 yards for a score. Bradford also had a long TD pass to Tavon Austin called back on a penalty, and Brian Quick dropped a pass in the end zone.
The Panthers' third-ranked defense forced three turnovers and had four sacks.
The Rams didn't help themselves with eight penalties for 68 yards. They were flagged for five personal fouls and defensive end Chris Long was ejected for throwing a punch.
Carolina's defense set the tone on the first play from scrimmage with former Rams safety Quintin Mikell pressuring Bradford into a poor pass. It floated into the secondary and was intercepted by a diving Munnerlyn, who quickly jumped to his feet and weaved his way for his fourth career interception return — tying a franchise record.
The Rams threatened to tie the game early, but failed to convert on fourth-and-goal from the 1 when Bradford was pressured into an incompletion.
The Rams would score on the next play when Eugene Sims tackled Mike Tolbert in the end zone for a safety — the first points surrendered by the Panthers in the opening quarter all season.
After the teams traded field goals, the Panthers took a 17-5 lead just before halftime on a 1-yard plunge by Tolbert. The game got chippy after that.
Long was ejected following a fracas involving several players near midfield.
The Panthers appeared in control and perhaps on the verge of putting the Rams away when Tolbert was stuffed on a second down run from the 1. He was flagged for a personal foul after the play, pushing the Panthers back 15 yards and forcing the second of Graham Gano's three field goals.
Down 20-5, Bradford connected with Quick on a 73-yard completion, setting up a short TD pass to Zac Stacy to trim Carolina's lead to eight.
But Carolina came right back with Newton hitting Steve Smith for his 800th career reception, a 19-yard touchdown for a 27-12 lead.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org