CHARLOTTE — Cam Newton found himself apologizing after Sunday’s game.
It had nothing to do with his performance on the field, but rather what he said as he angrily confronted referee Jerome Boger that drew a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct in the fourth quarter.
“The words that I said during the game were very disrespectful and I apologized to him during the game, but I’m going public and apologizing again,” Newton said. “It was something in the heat of the moment.”
The second-year quarterback made up for it by throwing for 171 yards and a touchdown and running for 60 yards and another score as the Carolina Panthers held off the Oakland Raiders 17-6 on Sunday.
Newton’s frustration stemmed from a heated game featuring several shoving matches, plenty of verbal exchanges and six unnecessary roughness penalties — including one that sidelined Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer in the first quarter for the rest of the day.
Newton’s took exception to what he felt was a late hit by Raiders safety Mike Mitchell with Carolina up 14-6.
“During the heat of the moment I felt as if he finished the hit and I had already thrown the ball,” Newton said. “I felt like after he threw it he still finished and drove me into the ground. With the referee right there I questioned his decision not to throw the flag on him.”
Boger said after the game he penalized Newton for “disrespectfully addressing an official” and that he “misspoke” when he announced that Newton was flagged for bumping an official.
Boger said he didn’t feel the bump was enough to warrant an ejection.
“It wasn’t of a malicious nature,” Boger said.
Said Newton: “I have to learn to control what I can control.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera Newton said he told Newton he has to learn to keep his emotions in check, although he added “he knows that. He’s an emotional guy and he wants to win in a bad way.”
Defensive lineman Tommy Kelly admitted the Raiders were going after Newton following Greg Hardy’s hard hit to Palmer’s back that sidelined their starting quarterback.
“You take our guy out, we’re going to go and try to take your guy out,” Kelly said. “We’re not out to hurt someone, but when that happens …”
Coach Dennis Allen said Palmer was taken to the hospital after the game, but X-rays on his ribs were negative.
Earlier in the game Newton appeared to kick Kelly as he got up from being sacked. Kelly was penalized for unnecessary roughness when he pushed back after the play.
“He kicked me,” Kelly said. “I guess he thought I was trying to do something to his leg, but I don’t play like that. How are you going to react if someone kicks you? Are you just going to take it?”
With Palmer out, the Raiders’ offense was rendered ineffective.
Carolina’s defense limited the Raiders to 189 total yards and 12 first downs.
Newton and the Panthers staked to 14-3 lead at halftime and let linebacker Luke Kuechly and the defense do the rest.
Palmer’s replacement, Matt Leinart, managed only 115 yards passing in three-plus quarters and was intercepted once by Kuechly, setting up Carolina’s second touchdown of the game.
“That’s his first extended action in a regular-season game in a long time, so I’m sure there was a little bit of rust there,” Allen said of Leinart. “But, at the end of the day, when you lose your starting quarterback, there are a lot of other guys who have got to step up, and we didn’t have enough guys that make enough plays for us offensively.”
Newton accounted for 231 of the 271 yards for the Panthers, who have won four of their last five games under coach Ron Rivera. It’s unclear if that will be enough to save his job.
Rivera is 12-19 in two years as Carolina’s coach.
The Raiders (4-11), losers of seven of eight, were held to 47 yards rushing on 22 carries. Their longest play was a 22-yard reception by third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor on a trick play.
After being penalized for holding on the game’s opening drive nullifying a 76-yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams, Panthers receiver Steve Smith hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Newton on Carolina’s second possession.
Newton added a 3-yard run to make it 14-3 before halftime.
Palmer left late in the first quarter.
After being flushed from the pocket, Palmer set up to throw when Hardy came barreling into him from behind and delivered a vicious blow to the middle of his back. Hardy was flagged for unnecessary roughness and the Raiders received an automatic first down, but lost Palmer for the day.
Carolina’s defense held the Raiders to three points despite two turnovers in Panthers territory — one coming on a Newton interception and another on a fumbled punt return by Joe Adams.
NOTES: Kuechly finished with a game-high 13 tackles for the Panthers. At one point he had six tackles in seven plays after he got fired up when officials flagged him for hitting a defenseless receiver. … The Raiders were held to 47 yards rushing. … The Panthers have now equaled last year’s win total.
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