Panthers Focus On Pittsburgh

By Jim Morrison (CarolinaSportsLink.com)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. –  With a short week and a showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers looming, the Carolina Panthers overwhelmed a beleaguered Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, setting a record for points in a half, and securing another win at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday afternoon, 42-28. 

“The talent level we have on this team is extremely scary,” Cam Newton said when asked about the luxury of having so many weapons to throw to. Newton completed 19-of-25 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns. 

Running back Christian McCaffery scored twice, amassing 157 yards from scrimmage as the Panthers scored 35 points in the first half - a franchise record for points in a first half. 

Carolina (6-2) scored touchdowns on five straight possessions during the opening half to build its commanding lead as Curtis Samuel and Greg Olsen each turned in highlight reel scoring plays for the home team.

“We have guys who are so explosive, so dynamic and so good in the open space,”Greg Olsen said. “We can give them balls on handoffs, throw it to them all — they’re very unique in that regard. I don’t know what we have had this many guys who are that dynamic with the ball in their hands.”

Wide Receiver Curtis Samuel scored on a 33-yard reverse early in the second quarter and Olsen closed out the Panthers first-half scoring run with a 17-yard touchdown reception from Newton with Bucs linebacker Adarius Taylor draped all over him.

For Tampa Bay (3-5), veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started in place of the turnover-machine Jameis Winston, threw for 243 yards on 24-of-40 passing with four touchdowns -- two each to receiver Adam Humphries and tight end O.J. Howard.

Turning point

After Tampa Bay pulled to within seven points, 35-28, on Humphries second touchdown grab 36 seconds into the fourth quarter,

Newton made it a two-possession game when he found Samuel, who made a leaping catch in the end zone with 9:10 remaining in the contest. It was the second-year wide receivers from Ohio State’s second touchdown of the afternoon. 

Star of the game: 

While Samuel and Olsen both turned in highlight reel plays for the Panthers offense, it was McCaffrey - who ran for two touchdowns and had 17 carries for 79 yards and five receptions for 78 yards, that turned in perhaps the most picturesque play of the day when he leaped over a Bucs defender after a reception in the flat, turning it into a 32-yard gain.

NOTES

Newton’s two-touchdown passes marked the seventh consecutive game he has thrown for at least two touchdowns.

Newly acquired Panthers safety Eric Reid, who was signed as a free agent during the team’s bye week, continues to protest social and racial injustice by kneeling before the national anthem.

Reid’s first-quarter interception and 39-yard return led to a one-yard scoring run by fullback Alex Armah for the Panthers first touchdown of the game.

Rookie cornerback Donte Jackson’s fourth-quarter pick of Fitzpatrick, his fourth interception of the season, sealed the Carolina victory.

Defensive end Mario Addison had three sacks for the Carolina defense which allowed just 82 yards rushing on the day, Nickelback Captain Munnerlyn and linebacker Thomas Davis led the Panthers with eight combined tackles each while Luke Kuechly had seven combined tackles.

INJURIES:

Buccaneers:  None reported.

Panthers: Reid left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury but returned to the game.

On Deck:  

Panthers @Steelers (Thurs 8:20) 

Washington @ Tampa Bay (11/11)