CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina’s defense turned it up a notch just in time to turn a ho-hum game into the Panthers’ sixth consecutive victory. Will Witherspoon returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown and Ken Lucas grabbed two of Carolina’s four interceptions Sunday to lead the Panthers to a 30-3 victory over the stumbling New York Jets.

The Panthers (7-2) forced six turnovers, four of which came on consecutive New York possessions, to pull away after an uneventful first half. Carolina scored 20 points off turnovers.

Carolina led 10-3 before the Jets (2-7) and quarterback Brooks Bollinger unraveled.

Bollinger, the fourth quarterback this season for the injury-ravaged Jets, moved New York to the Carolina 24 and had an open shot at the end zone when Laveranues Coles blew past Lucas.

But Coles had to wait for Bollinger’s pass, which hung in the air long enough for Lucas to catch up and jump in front of him for an interception in the end zone.

The Panthers didn’t score after Lucas’ first pick, but got another chance on New York’s next possession when Bollinger was again picked off by Lucas, giving the Panthers the ball at the New York 34.

That turnover put a spark in Carolina’s defense on a day when the Panthers’ offense wasn’t nearly as efficient as it had been the last two weeks.

Carolina didn’t squander its second chance, handing it off eight times before Stephen Davis finally punched it in on a 1-yard score. It was Davis’ 12th touchdown of the season, and gave the Panthers a 17-3 lead with 13:25 to go.

New York then fell apart.

Justin Miller fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and Chris Gamble recovered to set up a field goal by John Kasay that made it 20-3.

Bollinger, who was sacked four times, seemed rattled under pressure and threw his third pick of the game – this one to Gamble – on the next series.

It set up Kasay’s third field goal of the game for a 23-3 lead.

Bollinger could do nothing right from there, and was picked off for a fourth time by Witherspoon, who ran it in for the score. The strong defensive showing helped Carolina win on a day in which star receiver Steve Smith was a non-factor.

Jets cornerback Ty Law played Smith tough all day, holding him to three catches for 34 yards. New York’s defense also limited Davis to 81 yards rushing.

But behind the inexperienced Bollinger, New York’s offense was stuck in neutral. Curtis Martin was held to 75 yards rushing and Bollinger finished 11-of-21 for 98 yards.

The Jets were held to 214 yards total offense.

AP-ES-11-13-05 1907EST

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