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 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Cam Newton found Brandon LaFell over the middle for a 9-yard touchdown pass to give the Carolina Panthers a 7-0 lead over the New England Patriots after the first quarter Monday night.
Newton zipped a third-down throw to LaFell near the goal line with 2:44 left, capping a 90-yard drive that took more than 5 minutes off the clock.
The drive included a 42-yard catch by Steve Smith against cornerback Aqib Talib, who drew a personal foul penalty when he refused to let go of Smith's right foot after Smith's second catch, setting off a brief scuffle.
With the touchdown, the Panthers have outscored opponents 45-8 in the opening quarter this season. Carolina has also gone 14 games without allowing a first-quarter touchdown.
Tom Brady completed his first six throws for New England, though none went longer than a 14-yard screen to Julian Edelman on the opening drive. Brady threw for 49 yards on 8-for-10 passing in the first period and guided the Patriots to the Carolina 40 on his first possession, but Greg Hardy came in untouched on the left side for a third-down sack that dropped New England out of field goal range and forced a punt.
Newton was 4-of-6 passing for 67 yards in the opening quarter.
Carolina's five-game winning streak had stirred plenty of excitement for a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since 2005 or even reached the postseason since 2008.
The Panthers won 10-9 at reigning NFC champion San Francisco last weekend, keeping them right behind first-place New Orleans in the NFC South standings.
And with Brady coming to Charlotte, the stage was set for an electric atmosphere - with Newton going as far as to say: ''We need this more than anything. The Carolinas need this more than anything.''
The stakes weren't quite so high for the Patriots, sitting comfortably atop the AFC East standings. Instead, this was a chance for Brady - who entered 13-4 in Monday night games with 41 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions - and the Patriots to emerge from their bye week with a strong performance against one of the league's toughest defenses.
The game marked the first time the Patriots had a full complement of healthy weapons on offense, with the return of third-year running back Shane Vereen to play with tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Danny Amendola.
Vereen had been out since the opener due to a broken left wrist that required surgery, Gronkowski missed the first six games after offseason back and arm surgeries, while Amendola missed four games with a concussion and groin injury.
Vereen had two catches on the Patriots' first drive.
Talib also returned for New England after missing three games with a hip injury.

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