CHARLOTTE – Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, the two most dynamic offensive players in Panthers history produced one of the most dynamic touchdown plays in franchise history.
They accomplished it without quarterback Cam Newton ever giving up the ball and wide receiver Steve Smith ever touching the ball.
"I'm not here just to run pass patterns. I take pride in blocking," Smith said after his big block allowed Newton to turn a long run into a 72-yard touchdown in the Panthers' 30-20 victory. "I know a lot of people think I'm selfish, that I'm a 'me' guy. But I'm a blocker, and I'm going to try to run them in the dirt. That's my job."
The run - the fifth-longest touchdown run by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era – gave the Panthers a 23-0 lead early in the second half and highlighted a day in which Newton and Smith were on top of their games.
Newton became the first player in NFL history to throw for 250 yards, run for 100 yards and produce a passing and rushing touchdown in a game. Smith, in addition to his block that took out three Falcons, caught seven passes for 109 yards.
It was Smith's second consecutive 100-yard receiving game, coming on the heels of a nine-game stretch with just one. It's a testament to the recent level of play enjoyed by Newton, who has been responsible for 11 touchdowns and no turnovers in his last four games.
"I'm very pleased with his development," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I think what (quarterbacks) coach (Mike) Shula and Chud (offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski) have been doing with him has been right on. He is really accepting it and working it.
"Plus, the playmakers around him have been stepping up. There have been a lot of good things."
Newton admitted that the Falcons game takes on special meaning for him. A native of Atlanta, Newton had lost his first three games to the Falcons in dramatic, demoralizing fashion before rising up Sunday.
"With me being from Atlanta, it means so much," Newton said. "I get hounded so much when I'm in Atlanta from family members and friends.
"There are so many emotions from everybody going into the game. I think this game allows me to have a little chip on my shoulder going back home."
Smith proudly carries a chip into every game he plays. He balked at a question in the locker room suggesting things got "chippy" between him and members of the Falcons secondary, suggesting that his statistics and the scoreboard did his talking for him.
"It's a great football game played against a big rival. It's not about vindication," said Smith, whose Panthers dropped a painful 30-28 decision at Atlanta in Week 4. "You've got to win the ones you can win, and when you lose, you've got to eat humble pie. That's the end of it.
"I have a buddy that always tells me I need to smile more. First of all, I'm running around in tight pants, and people are trying to hit me. It's a blessing to have this job, but you've got to have some aggression. For me, smiling takes more energy. Frowning is just easy to do."
Sunday's showing, however, was enough to turn that frown upside down.