TAMPA, Fla. — Cam Newton pranced into the end zone, placed his hands over his chest and did his familiar Superman pose. He’s says the surging Carolina Panthers are hardly a one-man show, though.
An efficient Newton threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score Thursday night to pace a 31-13 victory over the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Panthers (4-3) won for the fourth time in five games after an 0-2 start and climbed over .500 for the first time in five years. They’ve won three straight, with Newton throwing for 667 yards, six TDs and no interceptions.
“It’s the culmination of a lot of things,” said Newton, who also has two rushing touchdowns in the past three weeks.
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“When you’ve got an offensive line that’s protecting the way they protect, when you’ve got a running back that’s running, you’ve got receivers making plays after the catch, it’s really not hard. It’s just up to me to make the right decision and get the ball into people’s hands that it needs to be.”
The Bucs (0-7), one of two NFL teams yet to win, have dropped the first seven games in a season for the seventh time in franchise history. They’ve lost 12 of 13 dating to last year, and some fans showed up at Raymond James Stadium carrying signs and wearing paper bags over their heads urging that second-year coach Greg Schiano be fired.
“We got licked,” Schiano said, adding that calls for his dismissal haven’t become a distraction for him or his players.
“It doesn’t affect me. People are certainly entitled to their opinion. … You sit there and cry about it, but that’s not going to help.”
Newton tossed a 1-yard TD pass to Greg Olsen in the first quarter and added a 3-yarder to Mike Tolbert on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 28-6 lead. Newton had his way against the Bucs in between those scores, too, setting up a nifty 12-yard TD run by DeAngelo Williams and getting into the end zone himself with a 6-yard run midway through the third quarter.
The third-year quarterback completed 23 of 32 passes for 221 yards. He also rushed for a team-high 50 yards on 11 attempts.
Rookie Mike Glennon threw for 275 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in his fourth start for Tampa Bay, which trailed 31-6 before finally getting into the end zone on Tim Wright’s 10-yard reception with just under three minutes remaining.
The victory lifted Carolina over .500 for the first time since 2008, when the Panthers finished 12-4.
“It’s a relief … but being .500 is just a small percentage of it,” Newton said. “We’ve just got to continue to keep meshing as a team, keep building and keep getting momentum in these upcoming weeks because we’re about to hit the meat of our schedule.”
• Fantasy football owners and Denver Broncos fans can rest easy: Peyton Manning is back. Manning returned to practice after the Broncos held him out a day earlier because of a minor ankle injury he suffered in Denver’s loss at Indianapolis last weekend. “Yeah, I thought he looked fine,” coach John Fox said.
• Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly won’t admit it, but it’s appearing more and more likely that Michael Vick will start Sunday when the New York Giants come to Lincoln Financial Field.
• The Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins will travel to London next year to take part in the NFL International Series, the league announced.