In a game that featured pushing, shoving, fighting, and plenty of finger pointing, the Panthers took the lead on a Captain Munnerlyn pick six and never looked back. The swarming defense generated three turnovers and four sacks while an efficient Cam Newton produced the highest completion percentage (88.2) and third-highest passer rating (136.3) of his career.
Over the past two games, Newton has completed 81.4 percent of his passes at 10.4 yards per with a passer rating near 140.0.
The Panthers are now a .500 team for the first time since a 1-1 start in 2012. With a top-five NFL defense, Rivera can salvage his job and turn this team into a playoff contender if Newton continues to make strides as a pocket passer.
Here's what else we learned:
1. Someone needs to tell Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins about spitting into the wind, ripping the mask off the old Lone Ranger, tugging on Superman's cape and talking trash to Steve Smith. Motivated by Jenkins' disparaging remarks about Smith's family, the Panthers' veteran receiver turned in his best game of the season. Smith became the 29th player in NFL history to reach 800 receptions. Before this game, Ted Ginn had been Carolina's best receiver.
2. A Rams defense that gave Arian Foster his best game in a couple of years last week held DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton to 2.68 yards per carry while adding a safety. The Panthers stayed committed to the run, but that number is an indictment of their offensive line which lost the battle in the trenches.
3. Rams wide receiver Brian Quick had a shot at a coming-out party, but dropped a perfectly thrown pass in the end zone. He played a bigger role this week, finishing second to Jared Cook with six targets including a 73-yard bomb.
4. Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy played better than his per-carry average of 3.1 yards would indicate. He had a beautifully executed 25-yard screen pass and continues to move the chains as the engine that makes the Rams' offense go. Stacy has avoided the negative plays that plagued Daryl Richardson early in the season, which leaves one wondering why it took so long to make the backfield switch.
5. The Rams are in deep trouble if Sam Bradford's left knee injury is serious. He had been playing at a much higher level the past three weeks. Backup Kellen Clemens simply doesn't have the pocket presence to succeed.
6. St. Louis' in-game coaching was suspect. A play-action pass on fourth-and-inches at the goal-line failed. They waved a white flag with over four minutes left in the game and down two touchdowns, opting to punt on fourth down.