INDIANAPOLIS — The Carolina Panthers finally found somewhere they could pull out a victory on the road: Indianapolis, home of the winless Colts.
DeAngelo Williams ran for two touchdowns and Cam Newton added another, leading the Panthers to a 27-19 win Sunday, their first outside of Charlotte, N.C., in nearly two years.
“This is something we can build off of, use as a springboard as we go forward,” coach Ron Rivera said. “It’s not where you are now — it’s where you’re headed.”
The Panthers (3-8) last won on the road Dec. 27, 2009, beating the New York Giants 41-9.
Williams rushed 15 times for 69 yards. Jonathan Stewart ran 10 times for 70 yards, and Newton finished with nine carries for 53 yards. The Panthers piled up a season-high 201 yards rushing, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and controlling the ball for more than 36 minutes.
It was just what the Panthers needed after blowing a double-digit lead at Detroit last weekend.
“Looking at records, we didn’t want to put our guard down,” Newton said. “I’m proud of this team, how we kept battling.”
Indy is 0-11 for the first time since 1986. The Colts produced just 1 yard in the first quarter, drawing boos from a near-capacity crowd, and had only 142 total yards entering the third quarter.
But it was a far better performance than what the fans had seen.
After losing their last four games by a combined 137-27, the Colts finally scored an offensive touchdown early in the second period, ending a nine-quarter drought. Dwight Freeney recorded his first sack since Oct. 9, and, in the final minutes, Indy had two chances to force overtime. Both ended with interceptions in the end zone.
“At least we put ourselves in position to win it in the second half,” said Curtis Painter, who was 15 of 29 for 226 yards with one TD and the two interceptions. “But we were in it. We had a shot at the end, just came up a little short.”
Newton was 20 of 27 for 208 yards, and Steve Smith caught three passes for 68 to top the 1,000-yard mark. But the Panthers wore down Indy’s defense with run after run.
In the final quarter, the Panthers kept giving themselves what seemed like a comfortable cushion against the NFL’s lone winless team only for the Colts to rally.
Williams scored his second touchdown early in the fourth to make it 24-13. Painter then hooked up with Reggie Wayne, who slipped a tackle in the middle of the field, turned left and sprinted into the end zone for a 56-yard TD. The 2-point conversion pass failed, making it 24-19.
Carolina answered with Kealoha Pilares’ 81-yard kickoff return, which led to a 41-yard field goal.
Painter, however, got the Colts back into scoring position before Chris Gamble picked off an underthrown ball in the end zone, right in front of Pierre Garcon.
It still wasn’t over.
The Colts forced a punt, and Painter got Indy back inside the Carolina 5 with about a minute to go. But when Austin Collie couldn’t hang onto Painter’s pass, Sherrod Martin snagged it out of the air and toe-tapped the end line for an interception to finally give Carolina the rare road victory.
“In light of what happened the first half of the season, how close we had come and not gotten it done, we came in at the half, we talked about what we had to do when we came out,” Rivera said. “And we did it.”
The Panthers jumped to a 10-0 lead thanks to Olindo Mare’s 40-yard field goal and Newton’s dancing 14-yard run into the end zone.
Donald Brown answered with a 17-yard scoring burst for the Colts, and Adam Vinatieri tied the score at 10 with a 31-yard field goal late in the first half.
Carolina broke the tie with a nifty 25-yard run from Williams, who sidestepped one defender in the middle of the field, cut right and outran the Colts defense for the score.
Notes: Peyton Manning joined former receiver Marvin Harrison during the induction ceremony into the Colts’ Ring of Honor. ... Indy also honored three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart during the break for the two-minute warning at the end of the first half. ... Colts defensive back Stevie Brown injured his quadriceps in the first half and fullback Ryan Mahaffey left in the third quarter with a concussion. ...Pilares had a long punt return called back in the first half because of an illegal block. ... Newton has now rushed for 10 TDs this season. Only two quarterbacks have ever had more — Kordell Stewart (11) with Pittsburgh in 1997 and Steve Grogan (12) with New England in 1976.