Final

Buccaneers 16

(4-11, 1-6 away)

Panthers 48

(6-9, 3-5 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 24, 2011

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 

1 2 3 4 T
TB 0 10 0 616
CAR 10 10 21 748

Top Performers

Passing: J. Freeman (TB) - 274 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: J. Stewart (CAR) - 7 CAR, 88 YDS

Receiving: B. LaFell (CAR) - 3 REC, 103 YDS, 1 TD

Cam Newton breaks Peyton Manning's rookie passing record in rout

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton had no shortage of doubters coming into the NFL.

They're much harder to find now.

The No. 1 pick in the NFL draft added to his remarkable season by breaking Peyton Manning's rookie record for yards passing and setting a franchise mark with a 91-yard touchdown toss to Brandon LaFell as the Carolina Panthers handed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers their ninth straight defeat, 48-16 on Saturday.

Newton threw for 171 yards and three touchdowns and scored on an amazing 49-yard run up the middle in which he showed his speed by outracing smaller defensive backs to the end zone.

He has accounted for 34 touchdowns on the season and has the Panthers playing well down the stretch, something coach Ron Rivera wanted to see so his team can carry momentum into next season.

Carolina (6-9) has won four of its last five games.

"There's always going to be something," Newton said when asked if he's answered his critics this season. "I continuously try to do what I can control. ... I don't worry about what people say because you know one day you'll be on top of the world and everybody is praising you and the next day the world will be on top of you and everybody else will be criticizing you."

Nobody was criticizing him Saturday.

Behind Newton's masterful performance, the Panthers scored on eight of their first nine possessions and piled up 397 yards in three quarters against the league's 30th-ranked defense.

Rivera pulled Newton and the other key starters early in the fourth.

As Newton walked over to the bench, teammates DeAngelo Williams and Jordan Gross sat with towels over their head -- some good-natured ribbing directed at Newton, who has been criticized by some fans for covering his head when things weren't going well.

That drew a big smile from Newton.

So did the support he got from his teammates on the field.

Williams scored on runs of 8 and 22 yards, his sixth and seventh TDs of the season, and Jonathan Stewart ran for 88 yards and caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Newton.

Newton entered the game needing 18 yards passing to break Manning's rookie record of 3,739 and did so with a 7-yard pass to LaFell on the first possession.

"It's very nice to do something with a record that's so prestigious in this league," Newton said before crediting his teammates and coaching staff for allowing him to break the mark.

Newton, however, was just getting started at that point.

On Carolina's third possession, he backpedaled into his own end zone and unleashed a strike to LaFell, who got a key downfield block from Steve Smith to spring him for a 91-yard score. That topped the franchise record of 89 yards set in the Panthers' expansion season of 1995 by Kerry Collins and Willie Green.

LaFell finished with a career-high 103 yards receiving.

Carolina's offensive line completely mauled a Bucs defense that was without starting defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth and Brian Price due to injuries. The Panthers piled up a season-high 270 yards on the ground and scored three rushing touchdowns, giving them 25 for the season -- most in the NFL.

"It's unfortunate that we're playing like this at the end when we let a lot of games slip away," Gross said. "It's exciting for the future. I love the look of this team right now."

The Panthers have led in all but one of their 15 games this season, but have shown a penchant for blowing fourth-quarter leads.

They left no doubt on Saturday, breaking open a 20-10 halftime lead with three touchdowns in 15:04 to start the second half. The 48 points were the second most in team history.

"I believe there is certainly that kind of talent in the locker room where we can certainly take the next step and become a very competitive football team (next year)," Rivera said. "We have that ability."

Newton scored eight touchdowns in two games against Tampa Bay this season -- four rushing and four passing -- as the Panthers racked up 79 points.

The play of the game came when Newton faked a handoff to Stewart and took off through a huge hole on the right side of the line. Newton juked a defender before shifting into another gear and blowing through the Tampa Bay secondary for the longest touchdown run ever by a Panthers quarterback.

"With the guys that we have on our team, with my father, my family members here, it was just saying, 'Don't get caught. Don't get caught because if I get caught I'm never, ever going to hear the last of this,' " Newton said.

"I just wanted to finish it out with a touchdown and put a smile on my face first so I can have something to talk about."

He added a touchdown toss to Jeremy Shockey to close out the scoring.

Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris came into the game on the hot seat and Saturday's loss may not bode well for his future. After a 4-2 start, the Bucs have dropped nine straight, scoring more than 20 points only once during that span.

The Bucs turned the ball over four times.

"The mistakes led to points, and that's been the difference between this year and last," Morris said. "When you can't maintain possession, this is the result. It causes lopsided results. It causes mental mistakes. It causes poor performances on defense, and out-of-character offense. Things begin to spiral out of control."

Starting running back LeGarrette Blount fumbled on Tampa Bay's first play from scrimmage, leading to Olindo Mare's field goal.

Blount was benched until the second half.

"It's a basic thing, and to fumble like that, that's unacceptable," Morris said. "If some players aren't ready to play, we'll put others in."

Game notes

Jordan Pugh was slated to start at strong safety for the injured Charles Godfrey, but developed concussion-like symptoms prior to the game and didn't play. That forced the Panthers to start Jonathan Nelson, who was added to the roster from the practice squad. Nelson had the game's only interception. ... Josh Freeman had a hand in both Tampa Bay touchdowns -- one rushing and one passing. ... In two games against the Panthers, Blount was held to 30 yards rushing combined.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
TB
CAR
1st Downs2320
Passing 1st downs
136
Rushing 1st downs
612
1st downs from penalties
42
3rd down efficiency
5-110-6
4th down efficiency
1-32-2
Total Plays6049
Total Yards317433
Yards per play5.38.8
Total Drives1011
Passing258163
Comp-Att
28-3812-17
Yards per pass
6.39.1
Interceptions thrown
10
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-161-8
Rushing59270
Rushing Attempts
1931
Yards per rush
3.18.7
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-23-5
Penalties7-648-77
Turnovers40
Fumbles lost
30
Interceptions thrown
10
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession32:5727:03

Passing Leaders

TBC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Freeman28/382747.2113-16
CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Newton12/1717110.1301-8

Rushing Leaders

TBCARYDSAVGTDLG
Lumpkin7243.409
Madu4205.0015
CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Stewart78812.6032
Williams7669.4222

Receiving Leaders

TBRECYDSAVGTDLG
Winslow66310.5022
Stroughter45213.0029
CARRECYDSAVGTDLG
LaFell310334.3191
Williams2189.0010

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERTBCAR
carTD10:17Deangelo Williams 8 Yard Run (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yds, 4:48
07
carFG8:30Olindo Mare 21 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 4 plays, 5 yds, 1:32
010
SECOND QUARTERTBCAR
tbTD14:14Arrelious Benn 4 Yard Pass From Josh Freeman (Connor Barth Kick is Good)
Drive info: 15 plays, 80 yds, 9:20
1020
carTD13:20Brandon Lafell 91 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 92 yds, 1:01
717
tbFG5:37Connor Barth 42 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 11 plays, 61 yds, 7:33
1017
carFG0:28Olindo Mare 19 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 79 yds, 5:08
1020
THIRD QUARTERTBCAR
carTD12:01Deangelo Williams 22 Yard Run (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 32 yds, 1:32
1027
carTD3:30Jonathan Stewart 11 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 61 yds, 3:34
1034
carTD0:33Cam Newton 49 Yard Run (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 55 yds, 0:49
1041
FOURTH QUARTERTBCAR
carTD15:00Jeremy Shockey 8 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 8 yds, 0:24
1048
tbTD11:11Josh Freeman 1 Yard Run (Josh Freeman Pass For Two-Point Conversion is No Good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 80 yds, 3:45
1648

Research Notes

Cam Newton has had a better touchdown to interception ratio and more passing yards than Peyton Manning did in his rookie season. Cam Newton can still add to this disparity with one final game remaining. Where Cam really shines is on the ground,. On Saturday the Panthers defeated the Buccaneers 48-16 Newton had 65 rushing yards, more rushing yards then Manning had in his entire rookie season.
  [+]

NewtonCam Newton (3 TDs) and Andy Dalton (2 TDs) became the fourth and fifth rookie quarterbacks to ever throw 20 touchdown passes in their first seasons Saturday.

  [+]

DaltonAndy Dalton and Cam Newton joined Peyton Manning as the only rookie quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for at least 3,000 pass yards and 20 pass touchdowns in their first season.

  [+]
From Elias: The Buccaneers defense has now allowed at least 48 points for the 2nd time this season (week 5 at 49ers). They are the 5th team since 1990 to allow at least 48 points twice in a single season.
  [+]
Cam Newton's 91-yard Pass TD to Brandon LaFell is the longest offensive TD in Panthers history. The previous record was 89 yards on a pass TD from Kerry Collins to Willie Green on December 17, 1995.

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