NFL: Panthers 38, Bucs 19
By Fred Goodall
TAMPA, Fla. ó Cam Newton insists his success isnít coming easily. All heís doing is whatever he can to help the Carolina Panthers win.
On Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that was just about everything.
The rookie ran for three more touchdowns to set the NFL single-season record for TDs rushing by a quarterback, pacing a 38-19 rout of the struggling Buccaneers with a dominating performance that revealed something else heís capable of doing: catching passes.
The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner scored the 11th, 12th and 13th TDs of his career on a trio of 1-yard runs. He also had his first reception as a pro to set up Jonathan Stewartís first-quarter TD, then threw a 19-yard TD pass to Legedu Naanee to finish one of Carolinaís three scoring drives of 80-plus yards.
ěI wouldnít say itís easier each week. Itís a challenge each and every week,î Newton said after Carolina (4-8) won its second straight to double the teamís victory total for last season.
ěThe one thing Iíve seemed to get is more comfortable,î the No. 1 overall pick in this yearís draft added. ě Dictating to the defense to some degree with your eyes, the pre-snap reads. The only difference in the NFL and college is the athleticism increases at each position.î
Tampa Bay (4-8), which played in throwback creamsicle jerseys and white helmets bearing the logo of a winking pirate, has lost six straight and seven of eight following a 3-1 start. The Bucs had nine penalties to Carolinaís two, and coach Raheem Morris lashed out at his team for what he described as unsmart play.
ěI can take getting beat by a better football team. I wish they were,î Morris said. ěThe foolish things that happened in that game, as far as penalties, some of the things that we caused, are just unacceptable. We are not playing like a smart football team right now.î
The coachís frustration peaked on the final play of the third quarter when Bucs linebacker Geno Hayes sacked Newton for a 4-yard loss only to have tackle Brian Price flagged for unnecessary roughness. It was not clear what Price did to draw the penalty.
Morris removed Price from the game and ěsent him home.î
ěIt was foolish. Itís selfish to your teammates, to everybody in the organization, to your fans. Thatís terrible. Thatís just selfish behavior, to get a 15-yard penalty in that situation when thatís all we talk about, thatís all we discuss,î Morris said. ěYou just donít do that to your team.î
The Bucs played without quarterback Josh Freeman, who sat out with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Josh Johnson made his fifth pro start, throwing for 229 yards and one touchdown while also leading his team in rushing.
Newton completed 12 of 21 passes for 204 yards and no interceptions. He added 54 yards rushing on 14 carries, teaming with Stewart (14 attempts, 80 yards) to help Carolina gain 163 on the ground. Newton nearly scored on a 27-yard reception after throwing backward to Naanee on the far side of the field and taking a throw-back to the left.
Stewartís 1-yard run put Carolina up 14-0. Newton leaped over the pile to finish an 83-yard, game-opening march and tied the record for rushing TDs by a quarterback to make it 31-12 in the third quarter. His third TD, giving him one more than New Englandís Steve Grogan scored in 1976, finished a 15-play, 81-yard drive.
ěIt does mean something to me. Iím not going to sit up here and say it doesnít mean something,î Newton said of the record. ěIím not focusing on individualism in this game. Itís still 11-on-11. I donít think I couldíve done anything without those other 10 guys, most importantly the five guys who are blocking their tails off each and every snap.î
Connor Barth kicked field goals of 50, 47, 46 and 44 yards for Tampa Bay in the first half. Johnson didnít get the Bucs into the end zone until he threw a 23-yard TD pass to Dezmon Briscoe in the fourth quarter.
Freeman injured his throwing shoulder on Tampa Bayís final offensive play of last weekís 23-17 loss at Tennessee when he dropped the snap on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak and was stopped for no gain. He was limited in practice, making some soft throws on Thursday and Friday and declared out Sunday morning.
The third-year pro became Tampa Bayís starter following an 0-7 start his rookie season and led his team to a surprising 10-6 record in 2010.