Charlotte, NC - Wide receiver and kick returner Steve Smith who has been in trouble in the recent weeks came up huge on Sunday for the Panthers. He scored three touchdowns -- two on punt returns -- and had a career-high 313 total yards to lead the Carolina Panthers to a 52-31 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
"I don't have to show the team anything -- they showed me that they trust me by letting me play,'' Smith said. "I'm just trying to be a pro, to remember where I came from. I've got to remember where I am and how fortunate I am to be in the NFL. I have to practice well and be the new Steve.''
An All-Pro kick returner as a rookie last season, Smith has struggled this year with his extra duties as a regular receiver. Before Sunday, he had scored just two touchdowns -- none on returns -- and had just one 100-yard receiving game
Carolina who now is 5-8 won its second straight game, and set a franchise record for points scored in team history, and also had a season-high 401 total yards.
Quarterback Rodney Peete went 21-for-29 for a season-high 319 yards and three touchdowns. Smith had five catches for a career-high 144 yards and Muhsin Muhammad had eight catches for 106 yards as the Panthers tied Oakland for scoring the most points in the NFL this season.
"Coach really challenged us at halftime, and we needed to be challenged,'' said tight end Wesley Walls, who had a 2-yard TD catch. "So we came out in the second half rolling and it just snowballed.''