By MIKE CRANSTON
The Associated Press
Sunday, December 2, 2007; 5:31 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Behind an ancient quarterback, a suddenly diverse playbook and a dominating defense, the Carolina Panthers finally tasted victory at home.
Vinny Testaverde threw two touchdown passes and the Panthers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 31-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Carolina's first home win in more than a year.
Using razzle-dazzle rarely seen under conservative coach John Fox, the Panthers (5-7) snapped a seven-game home losing streak dating to last season with Testaverde, who at 44 years, 19 days became the second-oldest starting QB in NFL history.
Testaverde also became the oldest starter to win, besting his own record set seven weeks ago in Arizona _ Carolina's last victory.
The Panthers' defense stepped up, too, with six sacks and Richard Marshall's 67-yard interception return for a touchdown, spoiling the 49ers' confidence a week after they snapped an eight-game losing streak.
Trent Dilfer threw for 171 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted four times and hit all day by Carolina's much-maligned defense. The 49ers (3-9) committed six turnovers.
The sloppy game was evidence of why both teams will be watching the playoffs on TV, but the Panthers will take it after going 377 days between home wins. The strong showing came a week after New Orleans hammered Carolina 31-6, with David Carr throwing two interceptions in place of Testaverde, who was out with a sore back.
Testaverde returned Sunday and Carr was demoted to third string. And while Testaverde threw for only 153 yards and had two interceptions, he directed an offense that took risks and snapped a streak of 12 straight quarters at home without an offensive touchdown.
The Panthers ran a reverse, a lateral and even a direct snap to Steve Smith _ with Testaverde lining up as a receiver _ in building a 17-0 halftime lead.
Showing poise in the pocket missing when Carr ran the offense, Testaverde tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to rookie Dante Rosario _ who was 2 years old when Testaverde entered the league in 1987 _ and a 1-yard pass to Jeff King that made it 31-14 early in the fourth quarter.
That allowed the Panthers to overcome the two miscues that briefly let the 49ers back in it.
Michael Lewis intercepted Testaverde on the first series of the second half, leading to Dilfer's 20-yard touchdown pass to Arnaz Battle.
Nate Clements' 41-yard punt return set up Dilfer's 21-yard TD pass to Delanie Walker, cutting Carolina's lead to 17-14.
As has been the case for the 49ers all season, the good fortune didn't last.
Lewis muffed a punt and Rosario fell on it at the 49ers 11. Four plays later, DeShaun Foster's 1-yard TD run gave Carolina a 10-point cushion.
The Panthers, who had a league-low 10 sacks in the first 11 games, came alive against the 49ers' shaky offensive line. Mike Rucker had 1 1/2 sacks and forced a fumble.
Frank Gore was held to 58 yards rushing on 12 carries, a week after he had his first 100-yard game in San Francisco's overtime win over Arizona.
The offensive woes returned for the 49ers Sunday, even with new offensive assistant Ted Tollner spending his second game in the booth assisting rookie offensive coordinator Jim Hostler.
The rare domination brought cheers from Panthers' fans, who had little to be happy about since Carolina's last home win, 15-0 over St. Louis on Nov. 19, 2006.
It was Testaverde who provided the spark, as he passed Warren Moon, who was 44 years, 8 days old when he started in 2000. Steve DeBerg, at 44 years, 279 days, holds the record for oldest QB from his 1998 start.