Newton hooked up with Brandon LaFell on a 91-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to set a new mark for the longest passing play in Panthers history. It’s just another feather in Newton’s cap, one that should be making room for a slew of Rookie of the Year awards when the year comes to an end. He finished the half with 124 passing yards and five of the team’s 110 rushing yards.
Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams combined for the other 105 against a Buccaneers defense that’s missing a bunch of players up front. Unless they find a way to slow down the Panthers on the ground, that’s going to make it difficult for them to turn around a 20-10 deficit in the second half.
That they’re alive in this one at all is a credit to a good half by Josh Freeman. After the Panthers scored on their first drive, LeGarrette Blount fumbled on the Bucs’ first offensive play and the Panthers were up 10-0 less than seven minutes into the game. But Freeman recovered and completed 13-of-14 passes the rest of the way to help get Tampa back in the game.