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
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.
"They're definitely up there (with the defense they play)," Glennon said. "They played well and we didn't play our best. We turned the ball over for the first time in a while. We have to do a better job of an offense so we're not put in those (third-and-long) situations."
The Buccaneers (3-9) managed only one third-down conversion in 10 tries.
"They didn't reinvent the wheel or anything," Buccaneers offensive tackle Donald Penn said. "It was things that we've seen and we should've done to pick up. I'm so mad at myself, I've got to play better."
The Panthers took their first lead with 6:08 left in the first quarter. Newton's 56-yard run set up a 16-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon LeFell two plays later.
The Buccaneers scored first, settling for kicker Rian Lindell
's 27-yard field goal on its opening possession. They added Lindell's 53-yarder later in the first quarter after safety Keith Tandy's interception of Newton.
Trailing 7-6, Tampa Bay was poised to regain the lead early in the second quarter, reaching the Carolina 4. But on third down, Glennon lost the handle on the ball while scrambling, with defensive tackle Dwan Edwards recovering a fumble. Glennon wasn't hit on the play.
Instead, Carolina kicker Graham Gano's 23-yard field goal capped the ensuing 14-play, 76-yard drive, increasing the Panthers' lead to 10-6.
The Panthers made it 17-6 on Newton's 1-yard, fourth-down leap with 25 seconds left in the first half. Newton's 30-yard screen pass to Olsen was the drive's big play.
Tampa Bay's first possession of the second half ended with safety Mike Mitchell's interception.
Olsen's 28-yard pickup with a catch came a play before Newton's 36-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. The Panthers led 24-6 with 10:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay failed to steal momentum when Lindell missed wide left on a 48-yard attempt after a five-minute drive.
The Buccaneers caught a break after Carolina reached the Tampa Bay 22 because linebacker Lavonte David intercepted Newton.
In the fourth quarter, the Panthers had a 13-play drive that netted a 22-yard field goal from Gano with 6:40 to play.
NOTES: Buccaneers CB Darrelle Revis exited with shoulder and chest injuries after he tumbled to the turf while breaking up a third-quarter pass intended for WR Steve Smith. ... Panthers LB Jordan Senn, mostly used on special teams, didn't return in the second half after suffering a hamstring injury. ... Tampa Bay QB Mike Glennon was without a touchdown pass for the first time as a starter. He had thrown at least one touchdown passes in his first eight starts, setting a record for NFL rookies. ... DE Charles Johnson of the Panthers missed his second consecutive game with a sprained knee. He was listed as inactive, but the Panthers are hoping he'll be back next week. ... The Panthers activated rookie RB Kenjon Barner to fill in for RB DeAngelo Williams, who was out with a thigh injury. ... The Buccaneers were aiming to become the first team since the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals
to win four games in a row following a season-opening eight-game losing streak. ... The Panthers defeated the Buccaneers 31-13 on Oct. 24 in Tampa, Fla. ... The Buccaneers are home against the Buffalo Bills
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