On second-and-goal from the 4, Beanie Wells, who rushed for 90 yards on 18 carries including a 7-yard touchdown run, muffed a pitch from Kolb and Carolina's Thomas Davis recovered.
"It was a bad pitch," Kolb said. "I think he would probably say he took his eyes off it, I'd tell you it was a bad pitch. That's the way a team works. We were lucky to overcome it."
After forcing a punt, Arizona drove to the Panthers 5, but a crackback block penalty against Andre Roberts drove the team back, and Jay Feely's 36-yard field goal try was wide left. Feely was 14-for-14 from inside the 40 a year ago.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the team needs to clean up those mistakes, and he said that the defense "was close but didn't make enough plays."
The Panthers took over at their 36 with 1:03 to play in the half. Daryl Washington intercepted Newton's pass over the middle, but the play was nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Peterson.
Moments later, Smith beat Peterson in the corner of the end zone and Newton lofted the ball perfectly in place to give Carolina the lead in front of the stunned crowd.
Arizona went 54 yards in six plays on its first possession, with Wells scoring on the 7-yard run.
After the subsequent kickoff, the Panthers had a third-and-7 from their 23 when new defensive coordinator Ray Horton called a blitz.
In a mix up in the secondary, Smith was at least 20 yards behind the nearest defender, safety Kerry Rhodes. The Panthers' star receiver ran untouched to the end zone to tie it at 7-7 with 7:11 left in the opening quarter.
Kolb's pass under duress to wide open tight end Jeff King for 48 yards and a touchdown against his former team to tie it at 14-14, but Carolina took the kickoff and went 80 yards in eight plays to take a 21-14 lead, Newton leaping over the line for the score. His air-guitar strum of the football in celebration drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Kolb found Early Doucet over the middle and the receiver broke a tackle then dashed 70 yards for the tying score with 10:48 to play.
New Carolina coach Ron Rivera called it "a tough one to lose."
"We are too young a football team to survive self-inflicted wounds," he said.
Notes: Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason was taken to the locker room on a cart in the second half after reinjuring his left ankle. Rivera said he was unsure of the severity of the injury. ... Doucet had three catches for 105 yards, his first career 100-yard receiving game. ... King's TD pass was his career long. ... Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling left the game in the second half with a bruised right hand. ... Larry Fitzgerald, double-covered all day, caught three passes for 62 yards.
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