The setup: Panthers faced a fourth-and-1 at the Chargers 2, 9:07 left in first quarter.
What happened: Cam Newton took the shotgun snap, and followed fullback Mike Tolbert on the left side for 1 yard and a first-and-goal at the 1.
Why it mattered: On the following snap, Tolbert dived over the top for a touchdown against his former team, giving Carolina a 7-0 lead.
The setup: Chargers ball, first-and-15 from their 29, 12:34 remaining in the second quarter.
What happened: Quarterback Philip Rivers lost the ball while attempting to pass, creating a scrum for the fumble. Panthers defensive tackle Nate Chandler emerged from the bottom of the pile with it, giving Panthers possession at San Diego 21.
Why it mattered: The Panthers took advantage of the takeaway. Four plays after the fumble recovery, Tolbert went in for another 1-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Smiths sideline grab
The setup: Panthers faced a third-and-6 from their 46, 53 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
What happened: Flushed out of the pocket, Newton rolled right and threw to Smith, who made the catch while keeping both feet inbounds. The replay official reviews the play, which stands for a 12-yard gain.
Why it mattered: Rather than punting, the Panthers kept the drive alive and added a 33-yard field by Graham Gano to lead 24-0 at the half.
Thomas pass interference
The setup: Chargers faced a third-and-8 from their 22, 14:14 remaining in the fourth quarter.
What happened: Rivers threw incomplete to Danario Alexander. But Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas was called for pass interference, giving Chargers a first-and-goal at the 9.
Why it mattered: On the next snap, Rivers tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates as the Chargers avoided the shutout.
Rivers second fumble
The setup: Chargers ball, first-and-10 from the Panthers 18, 10:25 left in the fourth quarter.
What happened: Defensive end Mario Addison came off the edge to sack Rivers, forcing him to fumble. Defensive end Frank Alexander recovered at the Carolina 23.
Why it mattered: The fumble came a play after San Diegos longest gain of the day a 30-yard pass from Rivers to Malcolm Floyd and prevented the Chargers from cutting into the Panthers big lead.