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Buccaneers-Panthers: What we learned

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers got just what they needed before a big divisional showdown: A dominating performance from the defense.

The Panthers limited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to 206 yards in Sunday afternoon's 27-6 shredding at Bank of America Stadium.

Quarterback Cam Newton threw two touchdown passes and scored on a rushing play as the Panthers won their franchise-record eighth game in a row.

"It's good just seeing our hard work paying off," fullback Mike Tolbert said. "But we're not done by any means."

The Panthers (9-3) pulled within a half-game of the New Orleans Saints, who play Monday night at Seattle, in the NFC South. The Panthers and Saints will meet next week at New Orleans and Dec. 22 in Charlotte.

"We can talk about it now," Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said of the matchup with the Saints.

"I don't know how much of a bigger game that you can have," tight end Greg Olsen said.

Carolina's stout defense made it difficult on rookie quarterback Mike Glennon as Tampa Bay's three-game winning streak came to an end.

Newton was intercepted twice, but he made enough other big plays to make up for those wayward throws. He completed 18 of 29 passes for 263 yards and also was the game's top rusher with 68 yards.

Carolina held an opponent without a touchdown for the second time in a four-game span.

"We're building momentum, it's just week to week," said rookie linebacker A.J. Klein, who had one of the team's five sacks of Glennon. "The No. 1 goal was to stop the run first and foremost, and then get after the quarterback, which we did. ... We've got a good thing going and we want to keep it going."

Glennon, playing for the first time as a pro in the state where he excelled in college for North Carolina State, was pressured several times as he sought open receivers. He connected on 14 of 21 attempts for 180 yards.

What the Buccaneers said

"They really didn't do anything that we didn't expect to see. We just didn't do a great job as a unit. We just didn't have a good day as far as running the ball like how we usually run the ball." -- Running back Bobby Rainey, who gained 63 of the team's 66 rushing yards.

What the Panthers said

"It's huge. It's a big game and we know it's a big game, but we're going to approach it like we approach everything. We're going to go out there and be ready for it." -- Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn on next Sunday's showdown with the New Orleans Saints with first place at stake in the NFC South.

What we learned about the Buccaneers

1. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has been a positive addition to the starting lineup, but teams are going to apply more pressure to disrupt his rhythm. Putting Glennon on the run seemed to work for Carolina's defense, which was credited with five sacks. Glennon said staying out of third-and-long situations would help the Buccaneers be more productive. They were 1 of 10 on third-down conversions against Carolina.

2. Even after a three-game winning streak, there is not a whole lot of margin for error with this team. The Buccaneers had been building a solid foundation by rushing the ball, but that aspect was missing against Carolina. As a result, the Panthers were able to unleash a pass rush on quarterback Mike Glennon.

What we learned about the Panthers

1. Carolina is finding more ways to use fullback Mike Tolbert, who is far less-heralded in the offensive backfield than running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Tolbert's straight-forward approach to picking up yards often seems to excite the home crowd. Tolbert accounted for 89 yards combined between rushing and receiving against Tampa Bay.

2. There are emerging play-makers on a defense that includes the NFL's 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year in linebacker Luke Kuechly. With linebacker A.J. Klein, a rookie out of Iowa State, receiving more playing time, he is making an impact as well, so the young linebacking corps could bode well for the future.
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