CHARLOTTE – Behind quarterback Cam Newton's career-high five touchdown passes and five takeaways by the defense, Carolina dominated Washington to claim a 44-16 victory Sunday at Bank of America Stadium and improve to 10-0.
"Today is an example of what we are really capable of," tight end Greg Olsen said.
This had the looks of a competitive game after the first quarter ended with the teams tied at 14.
"The biggest thing we have to understand is that we have to maintain our focus," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Teams are going to come in and give us their best shot so we have to respond by giving them our best."
After Carolina safety Kurt Coleman ended Washington's first drive of the game with his fourth interception of the year, Newton found running back Jonathan Stewart for a 12-yard touchdown. Washington needed just three plays to answer, as quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a 56-yard touchdown.
Carolina regained the lead when fullback Mike Tolbert recorded a 3-yard touchdown catch, but Andre Roberts returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to level the score.
Washington appeared to take the lead early in the second quarter when cornerback Chris Culliver jarred the ball away from Olsen and returned the interception 75 yards for a touchdown. But Culliver was penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit, nullifying the score.
Five plays later, Newton bought some time and eventually spotted wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. over the middle for a 2-yard touchdown.
"I'm like the third read on that," Ginn said. "We ran the play earlier in the game going the opposite way and he threw it to Tolbert (for the touchdown) and I was wide open then, too. We came back to it and they jumped the two outside routes, leaving the middle wide open."
Carolina's defense quickly put the offense in position to add to the lead, and from there, the Panthers took complete control of the game. Linebacker Luke Kuechly stripped the ball from running back Matt Jones, and linebacker Thomas Davis made the recovery at the Washington 24.
Newton connected with Olsen for a 5-yard touchdown six plays later, making him the first quarterback in franchise history to throw four touchdown passes in one half.
"(Cam) has a really good command of what we are doing on the offensive side," Rivera said.
Said Newton: "It was just overall execution… Coach always says, 'Trust your eyes out there' and I did."
Defensive end Kony Ealy's strip-sack allowed Carolina to widen the gap even more before halftime. After taking over with 1:54 remaining following the takeaway, Graham Gano converted a 42-yard field goal as the second quarter expired.
The Panthers led 31-14 halftime – the most points they've scored in a first half in team history.
Carolina recorded another strip-sack on the first play of the third quarter. Cornerback Bene Benwikere blitzed, forced Cousins to fumble as he was readying to throw and made the recovery at the Washington 11-yard line.
"That was a great aggressive call by (defensive coordinator Sean McDermott) to get the turnover," Benwikere said.
Rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess, making his first career start in place of the injured Philly Brown, used all of his 6-foot-4-inch frame to haul in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Newton moments later, extending the lead to 38-14.
"He just threw it at the spot and I went up to go get it," Funchess said.
At that point, the one-dimensional Redskins appeared finished.
Gano added a 48-yard field goal, and late in the third quarter cornerback Josh Norman registered Carolina's fifth forced fumble, leading to the fifth total takeaway.
"I just went after it and tried to find me a play," said Norman, who hadn't forced a turnover since Week 4. "I needed it."
Norman punched the ball out of tight end Jordan Reed's grasp and Kuechly made the recovery, which led to a 25-yard field goal from Gano.
In a scoreless second half for the Redskins offense, they compiled just 57 total yards and Cousins was sacked five times.
"I think we've made some steps in the right direction on how to finish, and we were able to do that today," Kuechly said. "We just have to keep growing."
View game action photos from Carolina's 44-16 win over Washington.