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Panthers-Buccaneers: What we learned

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- "Fire Schiano" billboards started popping up around town this week, and that was before coach Greg Schiano's Tampa Bay Buccaneers stumbled badly in a prime-time game Thursday.

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers crushed the Buccaneers 31-13, dropping Tampa Bay to 0-7, tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the worst record in the NFL.

Through the air, Newton was nearly flawless, going 23-for-32 for 221 yards without being intercepted. He threw two touchdown passes and ran another score, going untouched on a 6-yard dash to his left late in the third quarter.

"It's great when we're all getting the ball," Carolina wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said. "I just enjoy everything and go with the flow. We're a team."

On the ground, Carolina was efficient, rushing for 129 yards on 27 carries. Newton ran for a team-high 50 yards on 11 carries against the leaky Tampa Bay defense.

"He's one of the greatest escape artists I've ever seen," Buccaneers defensive tackle Akeem Spence said of Newton. "At times, we had guys all over him, and he just found a way to get to the edge and make a play. If they needed 5 or 6 yards, he could make it happen. It's tough."

The Panthers (4-3) led 14-6 at halftime but piled it on the second half.

With the Buccaneers' offense missing injured running back Doug Martin, rookie quarterback Mike Glennon couldn't get the team into the end zone until the game was out of hand late in the fourth quarter. Glennon finished 30-for-51 for 275 yards and a touchdown.

"We got licked," Schiano said. "My hat's off to Carolina. They played better than we did. They coached better than we did. That was the result today."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, "(Newton) did a great job of protecting the football, doing things that he needed to, making good decisions. The guys around him are making plays. Unfortunately ... we had a few drops, and that's disappointing. Our guys did a great job of putting themselves in position, now we just got to finish those plays."

What the Buccaneers said

"What needs to change is we have to execute better on the game field. So, how that happens: We have to coach better. We have to come up with different ways or better ways to communicate to get the end result. To me, coaching is presenting a vision, holding people accountable to that, the steps to get there. We've just got to do it better. We've done it before, so it's not where I don't think that this group of men can do it. We just need to do it better." -- Coach Greg Schiano, on whether his winless team can improve.

What the Panthers said

"We need to win these games. It's a short week, a division game and on the road. I know they were struggling, 0-6 coming into tonight, but this is still the NFL. Those guys are still very talented. To be able to come on the road and take care of business is what good teams should be able to do." -- Tight end Greg Olsen.

What we learned about the Panthers

1. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterback Cam Newton believe fullback Mike Tolbert can be a weapon out of the backfield. Tolbert got three touches in Carolina's first four snaps, two of them pass plays. He ran the ball seven times for 35 yards and caught four passes for 29 yards, including a fourth-quarter touchdown grab.

2. Ted Ginn Jr. is a reliable second-option at wide receiver when all-pro Steve Smith has an off night. Ginn posted team highs in catches (five) and receiving yards (80). His speed led to big plays against Tampa Bay, including a shallow crossing route that turned into a 35-yard completion down the sideline.

What we learned about the Buccaneers

1. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon is still going through some growing pains, but he showed signs of progress against the Panthers. Glennon was 11-for-16 in the first half for 124 yards, but he missed several throws in the second half, including a couple intended for Vincent Jackson in the end zone that ended up well out of bounds. A late touchdown pass, as well as a turnover-free night, could boost Glennon's confidence despite the loss.

2. Special teams were hit-and-miss for the Buccaneers. Kicker Rian Lindell was 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts, good from 47 and 48 yards, but Eric Page made some bad decisions on the punt and kick return units. Page muffed a punt in the third quarter that was recovered by the Panthers deep in Bucs territory. He also returned kicks from deep in his own end zone, only to be tackled on the 11- and 17-yard lines, setting up the Buccaneers' offense with poor field position.

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