CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are heading to New Orleans with a head of steam.
Newton threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score, and the Panthers defeated Tampa Bay 27-6 Sunday for a franchise-record eighth straight regular season victory.
Newton threw touchdown passes to Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. and “Superman” leaped over the pile for another score as the Panthers (9-3) outgained the Buccaneers 426-206.
The Carolina victory sets up a huge showdown next Sunday night with New Orleans with first place in the NFC South on the line.
Newton ran for 68 yards and overcame two interceptions. The third-year quarterback has thrown for 13 touchdown passes and run for five scores during the Panthers’ current win streak.
Carolina’s defense came in allowing the fewest points in the league and flexed its muscles again, forcing two turnovers and sacking rookie Mike Glennon four times to snap Tampa Bay’s three-game winning streak. Glennon had thrown a touchdown pass in an NFL record eight straight games to start his career.
But the Panthers kept the Bucs out of the end zone.
Despite playing without starting running back DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers built a 17-6 at the half with Newton connecting on a 16-yard touchdown pass to LaFell and leaping into the end zone on fourth-and-1 for another score.
The turning point came in the second quarter with the Panthers holding a 7-6 lead.
Glennon rolled left on third-and-goal at the Carolina 4 and had the ball inexplicably slip out of his throwing hand without being touched. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards pounced on the loose ball at the 17.
The Panthers cashed in with a 23-yard field goal by Graham Gano.
Newton would push the lead to 17-6 with 25 seconds left in the half when coach Ron Rivera went for it on fourth-and-goal at the 1. Newton dived headfirst over the pile, extending the ball over the goal line. “Riverboat Ron,” as he’s become known in Carolina, is now 8 of 9 when going on fourth-and-1 since his team’s Week 2 loss to Buffalo, a big reason for Carolina’s turnaround.
It was all Panthers in the second half.
Safety Mike Mitchell intercepted Glennon on the opening drive and Newton quickly took advantage. He moved the Panthers 78 yards in four plays, connecting on a 36-yard touchdown pass to Ginn, who beat Darrelle Revis on a double move. Revis would later leave the game with shoulder and chest injuries.
Mike Tolbert played a big role in the Carolina win, rushing for 48 yards on nine carries and catching three passes for 41 yards.
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