Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Cam Newton accounted for three touchdowns and the Carolina Panthers ran their winning streak to a franchise-best eight games in a thorough 27-6 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Newton threw for 263 yards with two interceptions while adding 68 yards and a TD on the ground. Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. each had touchdown catches in the rout.
The Panthers (9-3) pulled within a half-game of the NFC-South leading Saints, and the teams could be tied atop the division prior to next week's showdown in New Orleans pending the Saints-Seahawks outcome on Monday night.
They stopped the improving Buccaneers (3-9) in their tracks, as they allowed just 10 first downs and 206 total yards.
"People want to keep pointing at me, but the truth of the matter is our defense is playing lights out and giving us opportunities," said Newton.
Tampa Bay had won three in a row behind the play of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, who took a step back Sunday as he lost a key fumble, threw an interception and finished with just 180 passing yards.
"Obviously we made too many mistakes, both as coaches and players, to have an opportunity to win that game against a good football team," said Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano.
Glennon started off strong, going 4-for-4 for 46 yards on Tampa Bay's first possession, but Brian Leonard was stopped two yards shy of a first down on a short catch and the Bucs settled for a 27-yard field goal from Rian Lindell.
The Panthers took over from there.
Newton showed off his legs and his arm on the ensuing drive, first bursting up the sideline for a 56-yard gain then later finding a wide open LaFell in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard score.
Lindell banked in a 53-yard try following a Newton interception later in the opening quarter, but the Bucs wasted another scoring opportunity early in the second after Vincent Jackson was tripped up just inside the 5-yard line following a 60-yard catch-and-run. On third down, Glennon lost the ball as he rolled to his left and Carolina recovered at its 19-yard line.
The Panthers converted the turnover into a Graham Gano 23-yard field goal, then used a gutsy call just before halftime to take a 17-6 lead into the break.
"We made plays when we needed to make them on both sides of the ball," said Panthers coach Ron Rivera.
On 4th-and-goal from the one, Newton had his own number called and leapt over the line of scrimmage with the ball outstretched, breaking the plane just before the Bucs knocked the ball loose. Replay confirmed the touchdown.
Glennon was picked off by Mike Mitchell on the opening possession of the second half and Carolina quickly went 78 yards in just four plays, the last a Newton-to-Ginn connection for a 36-yard touchdown down the left sideline.
Lindell continued Tampa Bay's woes by missing a 48-yard field goal try on the following series, and Gano's 22-yard kick midway through the fourth capped the scoring.
These division rivals have alternated series sweeps for five straight seasons, with the Panthers posting a 31-13 win in Tampa in Week 8 ... Carolina has allowed a league-low 13.1 points per game this season ... The Panthers were playing without sack leader Charles Johnson (knee) and leading rusher DeAngelo Williams (quad). Jonathan Stewart got the start in place of Williams and ran for 39 yards on 14 carries ... Mike Tolbert added 89 yards from scrimmage for Carolina, while Greg Olsen led all Panthers receivers with 85 yards on five catches ... Bobby Rainey paced the Bucs' running attack with 63 yards on 17 carries ... Glennon was held without a touchdown pass for the first time in his nine career starts, though he did break Josh Freeman's club record for passing yards in a rookie campaign ... Tampa Bay was looking to become the first team since the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals to follow up a winless eight- game start with four consecutive victories.