Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The Carolina Panthers won for the first time in seven games last week, were without Cam Newton due to a car accident this week, but somehow sit atop the much-maligned NFC South.
Derek Anderson filled in for Newton and threw for 277 yards and a touchdown as the Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-17 on Sunday.
Newton suffered two transverse process fractures in his lower back in a two- car accident Tuesday afternoon near the team's stadium. He was released from the hospital on Wednesday morning and will be re-evaluated next week.
Anderson, who also started for Newton in the Panthers' Week 1 win at Tampa Bay, completed 25-of-40 passes.
"Everything was not as clean as we would've liked it." Anderson said. "It wasn't perfect by any means ... overall I'm very happy with the win."
Greg Olsen caught 10 balls for 110 yards and Kelvin Benjamin added 104 yards on eight receptions for Carolina (5-8-1), which is percentage points ahead of the New Orleans Saints (5-8) for first place in the division. The Saints visit the Chicago Bears on Monday night.
The Atlanta Falcons came into Sunday tied with the Saints for first place, but they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-20.
Josh McCown's 16-yard touchdown scramble on a 3rd-and-11 clawed the Bucs within 19-17 with 3:11 left, but the Panthers picked up a pair of first downs and took the next 2:48 off the clock.
Tampa Bay regained possession with 23 seconds remaining, but Luke Kuechly's interception on second down sealed the outcome.
McCown completed 13-of-28 passes for 154 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Buccaneers (2-12), who have dropped four straight games. Doug Martin carried the ball 14 times for 96 yards and Vincent Jackson hauled in six passes for 70 yards in defeat.
"Hung in there throughout, guys fought hard," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said.
Carolina outgained Tampa Bay 249-156 and held the ball for 21:04 in the first half, but trailed 10-9 at the break. The Panthers drove into the Tampa Bay 40 on each of their four first-half possessions, but settled for a trio of Graham Gano field goals.
The Panthers turned to their defense to finally gain the upper hand in the third, getting a turnover on Tampa Bay's first possession and forcing a trio of three-and-outs on its next three drives before getting another takeaway.
Tampa Bay was faced with a 3rd-and-15 on its initial possession of the third. A backpedaling McCown was attempting to set up a screen, but Charles Johnson strip-sacked him from behind and Kawann Short made the recovery at the Bucs' 5-yard line.
Carolina quickly took advantage of the miscue when Anderson flipped a 2-yard TD pass to Jerricho Cotchery in the back of the end zone on a play-action seam pattern two plays later, staking the Panthers to a 16-10 lead.
Carolina moved the ball deep into Tampa Bay territory on its next drive, but Stewart fumbled inside the 10. Alterraun Verner stripped the ball away from Stewart, while was fighting for extra yardage, and Akeem Spence pounced on the ball at the 8-yard line.
The Bucs' offense finally gained some traction late in the third. An 18-yard Charles Sims run off left tackle and a 16-yard Jackson reception helped them move the ball into Carolina territory. But Roman Harper stripped McCown from behind and Bene Benwikere recovered the downfield fumble at the 27.
Gano split the uprights from 45 yards out on the Panthers' next drive to put them up by two scores, 19-10, midway through the fourth.
Earlier, Gano connected on a 29-yard field goal, capping Carolina's opening 13-play, 73-yard possession.
The Bucs responded on their first touch. Martin broke off a 63-yard run up the middle and McCown flipped an 8-yard TD pass to Mike Evans three plays later to give Tampa Bay a 7-3 advantage.
Gano hit from 49 yards out on Carolina's ensuing touch late in the first quarter, but missed wide left from 50 yards out on its next drive. He nailed a 38-yard field goal on the Panthers' final sequence of the half, giving them a 9-7 edge with 1:10 to go.
Tampa Bay, though, gained 19 yards on a 3rd-and-10 via a McCown screen pass to Sims, which set up a Patrick Murray 48-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the half.
Newton was dealing with a rib injury in Week 1 and Anderson went 24-of-34 passing for 230 yards with two touchdowns in the 20-14 victory over the Bucs ... Tampa Bay has turned the ball over in 19 straight games, the second longest streak in the NFL ... Evans' 11th touchdown reception of the season tied Mike Williams' 2010 franchise rookie record.