CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Cam Newton took it as a challenge when the Carolina Panthers defense vaulted to the league’s No. 1 ranking.
He said it was time for the offense to match that mark.
Newton did his part on Monday night, throwing for 254 yards and four touchdowns and running for 95 more as the Panthers piled up a franchise-record 548 yards in a 45-21 rout of the Miami Dolphins.
“It’s nice to see them have this type of breakout game,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
Newton improved to 5-1 on Monday night games during his career.
“There is something about this stage with him,” Rivera said. “He played a tremendous game.”
Rookie Christian McCaffrey scored touchdowns rushing and receiving, and Devin Funchess caught five passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers (7-3) remained a half-game behind the NFC South-leading Saints heading into their bye week.
Jonathan Stewart ran for a season-high 110 yards, and Newton had a 69-yard jaunt on a read option as the Panthers racked up 294 yards on the ground.
Jay Cutler had 213 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception for the Dolphins (4-5), who have lost three straight.
The game turned with 41 seconds left in the first half, when Luke Kuechly intercepted Jay Cutler with Carolina leading 10-7.
Four plays later, Newton connected with Ed Dickson on a 7-yard touchdown pass. That opened the floodgates as the Panthers scored touchdowns on five straight drives.
The Panthers gave McCaffrey the start at running back over Stewart, who fumbled twice last week against the Falcons. McCaffrey didn’t let them down, combining for 50 yards and two scores, including a nifty 4-yard touchdown run where he faked out two Miami defenders.
Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald returned to the starting lineup after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but it didn’t help the struggling Dolphins defense.
DRAKE’S BIG RUN
Kenyan Drake provided the big play for the Dolphins, breaking free for a 66-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Newton passes Dan Marino for the third-most total yards (passing and rushing) in a quarterback’s first seven seasons. Newton trails only Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan in that category.
Dolphins: Reported no injuries.
Panthers: Rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury after dropping a would-be touchdown pass in the end zone. … Center Tyler Larsen suffered a foot injury but returned to the game.
Dolphins: Host the Buccaneers on Sunday in a game that was rescheduled from Week 1 because of Hurricane Irma.
Panthers: Visit the Jets on Nov. 26 after a bye.