Rapid Reaction: Panthers 33, Redskins 20

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 33-20 victory against the Washington Redskins at Bank of America Stadium:

What it means: The Panthers didn’t let this one slip away. The team that’s had problems holding leads until the end finally got it done. This was a significant win for the Panthers because the Redskins came in with a winning record. It also was significant because the fan base was starting to get a bit frustrated with moral victories. This was a real victory and a real stride for a young team.

What I liked: Carolina’s defense. It was far from perfect and the Panthers were going against John Beck, who entered the game with an 0-4 record as an NFL starter. But the defense, which had been hit hard by injuries, did some things it had not been doing, like getting the Washington offense off the field and making some big plays.

What else I liked: Cam Newton. This was the first time I’ve seen the rookie quarterback in person in game circumstances. He might be even more impressive in person than on television. I knew Newton could run and throw, but didn’t fully appreciate his arm strength, accuracy and ability to shrug off hits from defenders.

What I didn't like: The Panthers had successive plays at the end of the first half where Olindo Mare kicked the ball through the uprights, but the field goal didn't count. Mare got pushed back and finally was successful from 45 yards. But you can't get away with mistakes like that every week.

In the record books: Chris Gamble recorded the 25th interception of his career in the fourth quarter. That ties Gamble with Eric Davis for the franchise record.

Still going strong: Carolina receiver Steve Smith continues to look like the Smith of the middle of the last decade. He had seven catches for 143 yards and was full of energy. People talk a lot about how Newton has revitalized Smith. But it also needs to be noted that Smith is doing a lot to make the rookie quarterback look good.

What’s next: The Panthers host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday.