Holmes said last week the Panthers' secondary was the "weakest link" of their defense, and Munnerlyn set out to prove him wrong.
"I just wanted to get into his head and be real physical with him," Munnerlyn said of Holmes. "I took that kind of personal that he said we were the weakest link on defense. And we just went out there and executed."
Carolina's victory, combined with New Orleans' 27-16 loss to St. Louis on Sunday, pulled the Panthers (10-4) even with the Saints in the NFC South with the teams playing next Sunday in Charlotte. Carolina can capture the division title and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs by winning its next two games.
"We control our own destiny once again, which is great for us," said Newton, who improved to 23-23 as a starting NFL quarterback.
Rivera said: "The ball is in our court."
"A few too many times, to be honest with you," Rivera said. "I did get distracted a couple of times. ... I did hear the crowd cheer and when I looked up they showed the score, so that caught my attention."
Carolina's defense wasn't distracted.
After surrendered 313 yards passing and four touchdowns to Drew Brees in a 31-13 loss to the Saints last week, the Panthers limited rookie quarterback Geno Smith to 167 yards passing and sacked him four times. Munnerlyn's interception return in the fourth quarter sealed Carolina's ninth win in 10 games.
"I let Rex (Ryan) down today," Smith said. "He had talked me about not having a turnover. I wanted to do that today. On one occasion, I got sloppy with it and forced it. I didn't get it done. Ultimately, in this league, that's something I've learned, that's what it comes down to - one or two plays here or there."
Holmes had two catches for 17 yards.
"They played pretty good," Holmes said of Carolina's secondary. "They came out with a victory and did what they had to do."
Newton injured his right toe just before halftime, but remained in the game and never missed a snap. He was an efficient 16 of 24 passing, including a 72-yard touchdown on a screen pass to DeAngelo Williams. Williams, who saw increased action with Jonathan Stewart, had 81 yards rushing and 87 yards receiving.
Williams said he and special teams coach Richard Rodgers picked up on something the Jets were doing in the first half and used it to their advantage.
"We noticed they were shifting their wing out to the side of the punt and bringing a PP (personal protector) down on the line, which leaves no one in the backfield," Williams said. "It basically gave me a one-on-one with the long snapper."
Rivera said: "That play really kind of sparked us."
On New York's next series, Munnerlyn then stepped in front of Smith's pass on a slant route and returned it for his fifth career TD return - a franchise record.
"Captain is a dynamo and had a really good week of practice and it showed," Rivera said. "I told him he set the bar really high for next week."
The Panthers broke open a 6-6 tie late in the first quarter when Newton faked a screen pass to the left, spun around and threw back to the other side of the field to a wide-open Williams. The 30-year-old running back beat linebacker David Harris to the right sideline and turned it up the field, getting a smothering block from wide receiver Brandon LaFell en route to a 72-yard touchdown reception.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press