From Comcast SportsNetCHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Cam Newton let teammate Greg Hardy handle the trash talk. Newton was busy setting records.Four days after Carolina defensive end Hardy promised "payback" and "punishment" for the Falcons over a loss at Atlanta in September, Newton threw for 287 yards and scored on a 72-yard run in a 30-20 victory.Despite playing without four starters and having 13 players on injured reserve, the struggling Panthers dominated the NFC South champions, just as Hardy said they would. Newton piled up a career-high 116 yards on the ground to become the first player with 250 yards passing, 100 yards rushing, a touchdown run and a TD pass in a game.The Panthers racked up 475 yards overall, avenging that Week 4 loss to Atlanta and snapping a five-game losing streak to their Interstate 85 rivals.Hardy was upset when television cameras caught Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan cursing at the Panthers sideline, telling them to get off the Falcons' field in Atlanta's 30-28 win. Hardy responded by saying last week the Panthers were a "better team" than the Falcons, adding a variety of trash talk.After Sunday's win Hardy turned the tables on the Falcons (11-2), repeating several times what Ryan said 10 weeks ago as he walked off the field. At one point Falcons kicker Matt Bryant returned fire at Hardy, saying, "Watch us in January."Hardy left the locker room before reporters were allowed in.It was Newton's first victory in four tries over his hometown team and he admitted after the game it was a special feeling."I think this game allows me to have a little chip on my shoulder," Newton said.Carolina's defense was superb through 2 quarters, helping build a 23-0 lead and a 356-86 edge in total yards.Carolina (4-9) came in with little to play for except to gain that measure of revenge on Ryan, who downplayed the war of words."I don't pay too much attention to it," said Ryan, who threw for 342 yards and two scores with one interception. "They were better than us today, that's for sure. They came out and played better than us. We're in a position in our season where we've got everything right in front of us, and we need to get back to work and worry about that."Said Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn: "It's tough to say that we're overall better than the Falcons because they're 11-2, but I like Greg's confidence."The Falcons, of course, are headed to the playoffs and Sunday was a speed bump in what has been an outstanding season.However, the loss will certainly be of concern to Falcons fans that have witnessed good teams in the past under coach Mike Smith either fade late in the season or struggle in the playoffs.Smith said he'll use the loss as a "teaching point" and that "we have to play our best football here in the fourth quarter" of the season.It was all Carolina in the first half, beginning with the coin toss.The Panthers hadn't won a coin flip all year until Sunday, causing team captain Jordan Gross to exalt at midfield by thrusting both arms into the air. Including overtime, the Panthers were 0-13 on coin flips."I've never seen people cheering so loud for a coin toss," Gross said with a laugh.Carolina quickly took advantage, taking the opening kickoff and going 77 yards in 11 plays with Greg Olsen making a leaping grab in the back of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.That set the tone for the first half.By the time Graham's Gano's third field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, the Panthers led 16-0 and had run 45 plays to Atlanta's 13, outgaining the Falcons 270-35.Led by Newton, who had some big runs on third-and-long, including a highlight-reel 14-yarder in which he avoided three tacklers on third-and-11, the Panthers had 15 first downs to Atlanta's two."Our offense today is what I kind of thought it would be all year long," Gross said. "We passed well. We threw the ball. We ran the ball well. We blocked well."Said Panthers coach Ron Rivera said: "This shows what we were capable of. That's the sad part."Carolina didn't let up in the second half.After the Panthers stuffed Atlanta on its first drive, Newton faked a handoff to DeAngelo Williams and raced 72 yards to the end zone, getting an assist from receiver Steve Smith, who took out two would-be tacklers with a big block around the 20. Newton somersaulted into the end zone for a 23-0 lead."I had a lot of practice blocking playing for (former Panthers) coach (John) Fox," Smith said, referring to Fox's tendency to run more than pass it while here in Carolina.Ryan threw two touchdown passes and Michael Turner ran for one, but the Falcons couldn't catch up.The Panthers put it away midway through the fourth quarter. After costly defensive holding penalty on cornerback Dunta Robinson, Williams caught a screen pass from Newton and raced 53 yards for a 30-13 lead.NOTES:The Panthers played without starters wide receiver Brandon LaFell, running back Jonathan Stewart, linebacker James Anderson and safety Charles Godfrey. ... Rivera ended his news conference early after starting to get emotional talking about the comeback of Thomas Davis, who has battled back from three torn ACLs to be a major contributor this season. ... Atlanta had won eight of the past nine games against Carolina before Sunday's loss.
Yeah, Tim Anderson's got a lot of errors. But he's also making plays like this.
Anderson does have a ton of errors, 20 of them, to be precise, a total greater than any player in baseball. He's committed at least 20 errors in each of his last three seasons, and in four major league seasons he's got 82 of them.
None of that should cancel out the great defensive improvement we saw from Anderson over the course of last season. Just because he's making a lot of errors doesn't mean he's not a good fielder, as the frequent eye-popping defensive plays he makes should illustrate.
The outside focus on Anderson this season has been on almost everything besides the defense: the offense, the attitude, the high ankle sprain, the evolution into one of this young team's leaders. All that's deserved, of course. That injured-list stay has him just outside of qualified status, and if he had it he'd own one of the highest batting averages in the American League. But defense remains a high priority for Anderson, who said he practices plays like the one from Friday night all the time.
"That's stuff I practice on," he said Saturday. "I go out before the game and I practice on those things, and I think it's starting to show now. And people are watching."
"He’s really, really good because he gets to balls most people won’t and then he completes a play like that," manager Rick Renteria said. "He’s been doing that quite a bit now for over two years. You really tip your cap to him and Joe (McEwing, White Sox infield coach), who has been steadfast working with him. For Timmy to take it upon himself to want to be the best at what he does, he continues to work very, very hard and play like that. It’s becoming a staple play like that for him in the hole."
It's true, we've seen that play an awful lot from Anderson this season, even if he was particularly and ridiculously deep Friday night.
According to Renteria, Anderson's range might be one of the reasons he's accumulated more errors than most.
"Anybody that can get to more balls than most people and have more chances (racks up more errors)," Renteria said. "Some of those plays, they are able to extend themselves to make those plays and they are not necessarily in the best position possible. But they are still capable of, with body control, trying to execute some plays.
"I think overall the more balls you can get to, the more chances you have, there’s a great chance of increasing errors — especially at shortstop, where he covers a lot of ground."
Those who watch Anderson on a nightly basis know that his error total doesn't define him as a defender at shortstop. They know he makes a ton of plays that few other shortstops make. But there will be those who scan the statistics at the end of the season and see all those errors and jump to their own conclusions.
That error total, whatever it ends up being, doesn't need to come with an asterisk. But maybe a link to some of the highlight-reel plays would be helpful.
Anderson's season deserves all the praise it's received for his offensive breakout, his excitement-generating bat flips and his rise as one of the young leaders in a group primed for such a bright future.
But remember the defense. It's a big part of what makes him a core player for this White Sox team.
The Bears' are still aren't sure who their backup inside linebackers are, and it's one of the positions Matt Nagy has his eye on tonight.
Cue Nick Kwiatkoski, who's had an up-and-down preseason so far. Midway through the 1st quarter, Chuck Pagano sent him on a blitz:
It's a nice move from the fourth-year pro, who is battling with Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Josh Woods, and Kevin Pierre-Louis for the backup role.