EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – After one of the strangest and nastiest games this NFL season, Cam Newton had an odd feeling.
His Carolina Panthers had just shrugged off a record-tying Giants comeback to remain perfect with a wild 38-35 victory Sunday. Newton, who threw for five touchdowns to further state his case for NFL MVP honors, wasn't quite sure what he'd just been through.
"It was kind of a weird feeling in that locker room, and I'm still feeling kind of weird, but not enough to [not] celebrate," said Newton, who also rushed for 100 yards. "We're just trying to find a way to get victories."
New York tied the score after trailing by 28 points in the third quarter, but Carolina got to 14-0 on Graham Gano's 43-yard field goal as time expired.
It was Carolina's 18th consecutive regular-season victory. Newton has thrown for 19 touchdowns in the past five games and a career-best 33 in this so-far special season.
It looked oh so easy when the NFC South champions led 35-7 with 5 minutes, 32 seconds left in the third quarter. Then the Giants (6-8) matched San Francisco's 28-point rally against New Orleans in 1980.
One big difference: The 49ers won that game in overtime. The Giants trail Washington by one game in the NFC East, and they have lost in the final minutes six times.
Carolina hasn't lost at all, of course. The Panthers are the fourth NFL team to reach 14-0 and play at Atlanta and at home to Tampa Bay to finish the schedule.
The Giants tied the score when star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — involved in a game-long helmet-smacking, shoving and jawing session with cornerback Josh Norman — got behind Norman for a 14-yard touchdown catch with 1:46 to go. Beckham had lost his cool several times as Norman was getting the best of him in their high-profile matchup. But he got free for a 40-yard catch and run that led to the tying TD.
Then Newton calmly guided the Panthers 49 yards to the winning kick.
Play ranged from chippy to vicious, particularly as Carolina banged Beckham around. He gave back, too, especially during one sequence when Norman crashed into him and Beckham wrestled Norman to the ground.
"He was 15 yards down the field and went straight for my head," Norman said. "It was just crazy, man."
Three times, a frustrated Beckham was penalized for unnecessary roughness. Norman also drew a flag for hitting Beckham in the helmet. And after his tying score, Beckham appeared to taunt Norman before he ran to midfield in celebration.
"He's got the maturity of a little kid," Norman said.
Said Newton, "You got two bulls going at it in a physical sport, a field full of alpha males, they're not going to be playing patty-cake, patty-cake."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he considered sitting Beckham for some plays but didn't.
"He did lose his composure," Coughlin said. "I think throughout the course of the game he regained it. I won't try to speak for him."
Said Beckham: "You are a competitor. I'm a competitor. We are always going to go at it. Anybody who has played sports — you are competitive and you are going to go as hard as you can."