Carolina Panthers win franchise-record eighth straight, 27-6

CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers didn’t have to sweat out a last-second win this time. Using a bruising defense to stifle any chances the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thought they had, the Panthers (9-3) won their franchise-record eighth game in a row, 27-6. Now, however, the next two-out-of-three games against the New Orleans Saints loom, and everyone is ready.

Cam Newton, who sat out the last series, is ready. “It was great to be a part of this type of win,” Newton said. “But we all know that all roads are leading to New Orleans.” The Saints play tonight in Seattle in one of the biggest games of the season, and will host Carolina on Sunday night.

The Panthers defense dominated the Bucs, sacking quarterback Mike Glennon five times and forced him into two turnovers. Just how dominating was the Panthers’ defense? How about holding the Bucs to just one third-down conversion in ten attempts.

And the offensive line did a great job protecting Newton, not allowing a sack for the first time since November, 2012. The Bucs entered the game with 24 sacks in 11 games.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton scores on a fourth-and-one gamble by Coach "Riverboat" Ron Rivera.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton scores on a fourth-and-one gamble by Coach “Riverboat” Ron Rivera.

After two very tight games, the Panthers came out and took care of business. Carolina had more than a 2-to-1 edge in total yardage, racking up 426 yards while holding Tampa Bay to 206. Newton was 18-of-23 for 263 yards, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions. Additionally, he led the team in rushing with 68 yards on five carries. It was the third consecutive game Newton has led the team in rushing. Tight end Greg Olsen was his favorite target via the air, catching 5 passes for 85 yards. Ted Ginn, Jr. and Brandon LaFell caught a touchdown pass each. Carolina swept the season series with the Bucs by a combined score of 58-19.

Once again, “Riverboat” Ron (Rivera) gambled on fourth-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 1 late in the first half. He got it on a Cam Newton dive in which Newton broke the plane of the goal line a half-second before fumbling. The Panthers never looked back.

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera joking with an official during a timeout.

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera joking with an official during a timeout.

Rivera called the win “cautiously efficient,” which was correct. The Panthers weren’t perfect, but they played well enough to never be in serious danger. In many ways, for Panthers fans used to sweating it out until deep in the fourth quarter, Sunday was a relief.

The next three weeks are huge for the Panthers, who are defying the beginning-of-the-season odds. Very few people expected the Panthers to be 9-3 going into the two New Orleans games. And, should Seattle beat the Saints tonight, the Panthers and Saints would be tied for the NFC South lead. Can’t get much bigger than that!
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

Panthers right tackle Jordan Gross: “It’s awesome. I’ve been a part of a few winning seasons and some good teams, but winning eight in a row is tough. Especially now. As the wins pile up, you become the team other teams want to beat to put a notch in their belt. … It was a good win going into a huge game.”

Panthers center Ryan Kalil: “I’ve always felt we had a pretty talented group here. The difference has been the maturity. It’s been sort of a culmination of the last two seasons, of finally saying, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on the win streak: “People want to keep pointing at me. But the truth of the matter is, our defense is playing lights out.”

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera on the dominating defense: “We disguised coverages very well so it put a little bit of doubt in the quarterback’s mind. He didn’t have the opportunity to release the ball quickly because I’m not sure that he was sure what our coverages were.”

Rivera on not only this win but the season as well: “It’s very satisfying because of where we came from. As I’ve said before, it’s been a hard four years for a lot of guys in that locker room. It’s been a hard two years for myself and a lot of other people as well. It is very satisfying to be on a nice little roll, but again there is a lot of work to do.”

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen.

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen: “We’ve said it all along we’re not going to have any one individual that’s up in the top of the league lead in anything.”

Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell: “It’s a great feeling but we’ve got a lot of unfinished business. We’re going to enjoy this win and keep rolling.”

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy: “They beat us physically, mentally, every facet of the game. They just dominated us.”

Tampa Bay Bucs embattled head coach Greg Schiano on his rookie quarterback: “He (Glennon) maybe looked more like a rookie than he’s looked.”Tampa Bay running back Bobby Rainey: “When we don’t beat ourselves, we’re a great team. We didn’t do that today and the results showed.”