Carolina 30, Arizona 20
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, October 30, 2016
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Maybe reliving one of their glorious moments from last season was the ideal path for the Carolina Panthers to take to move back on track.
"You see how we can play," defensive end Charles Johnson said after Sunday's 30-20 victory against the Arizona Cardinals. "We needed the win."
Running back Jonathan Stewart ran for a pair of touchdowns and the Panthers found a remedy for their recent struggles in a rematch of last season's NFC championship game at Bank of America Stadium.
"It feels good to get back to the things we always talk about," Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy said.
It nearly turned into another Carolina rout of the Cardinals, sparked by linebacker Thomas Davis return of a fumble for a touchdown in the game's opening minutes.
The Panthers (2-5), coming off a bye week, played energized in snapping a four-game losing streak even though they didn't score a second-half touchdown.
"To get a win against a team as good as they are, it was huge," said defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who notched three sacks. "I think it will help us going forward."
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer endured eight sacks, including five times in the first half. He completed 35 of 46 passes for 363 yards, throwing three touchdown passes (two to receiver J.J. Nelson) and one interception.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had an average day, completing 14 of 27 passes for 212 yards. Stewart gained 95 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Carolina led 24-7 at the half -- the same halftime score between the teams in last season's NFC championship game.
"We've got to stop coming out slow out of the gate," Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson said. "We just got to get rolling. ... This game didn't kill us. It's a good one for us to learn from."
Carolina's Graham Gano kicked three field goals, including a 52-yarder in the third quarter.
Palmer hit receiver John Brown for a 17-yard scoring play late in the third quarter as the Cardinals (3-4-1) closed within 30-14.
Arizona moved into Carolina territory early in the fourth quarter, but four penalties pushed the Cardinals back to their own 20-yard line and they faced second-and-44 before giving up possession with a punt.
"As a group, we've got to clean up all the mental errors and continue to get better," Nelson said.
On their next possession, the Cardinals converted a fourth down and then scored on Palmer's 4-yard pass to Nelson with 5:01 left. A two-point conversion pass failed.
The Cardinals entered the week having forced 14 turnovers -- the second most in NFL -- but they didn't have a takeaway Sunday until stripping Stewart for a fumble with 3:19 remaining at the Carolina 40.
On the next snap, defensive end Kony Ealy intercepted Palmer's pass.
"Just bad luck on Carson because he played lights out all day," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "It's a shame that goes down as an interception."
The Panthers had a 7-0 lead when Arizona, which had the game's first possession, lost the ball on Palmer's fumble and Davis returned it 46 yards for a touchdown.
It was the 12th-year NFL player's first career touchdown.
The Panthers held a 14-0 edge after Stewart's 2-yard run later in the opening quarter as part of a nine-play, 75-yard drive.
Stewart bulled in from 1 yard out with 11:05 to go in the second quarter. Gano's 43-yard field goal made it 24-0 with 2:45 left before halftime.
"If any team could go out and display what we did, it's us," Stewart said. "It has been a long time and you definitely don't want to take these wins for granted."
The Cardinals didn't take a snap inside Carolina territory until less than two minutes remained in the opening half. That led to Palmer's 5-yard touchdown pass to Nelson with 20 seconds to play in the half.
NOTES: The Panthers lost LB Shaq Thompson (left knee) and C Ryan Kalil (right shoulder) to second-quarter injuries. Neither player returned. ... Arizona lost S Tyrann Mathieu to a shoulder injury and he didn't play in the second half. ... The Panthers were without CB James Bradberry, who has a toe injury, while CB Robert McClain, who missed the previous game because of a hamstring injury, took his place. ... Carolina activated CB Leonard Johnson, who made his Panthers debut, and placed CB Teddy Williams on injured reserve with a knee injury. ... Panthers OT Michael Oher missed his fourth game with a concussion. ... Carolina visits the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday. ... The Cardinals are off next week before a Nov. 13 matchup against San Francisco for their only home game in November.
Top Game Performances
Team Stats Summary
Carolina will play their next game on the road against Los Angeles. The Panthers have a W/L % of .000 after a win and .400 after a loss.
Arizona will play their next game at home against San Francisco. The Cardinals have a W/L % of .333 after a win and .667 after a loss.