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NFL | CAROLINA PANTHERS 31, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 13

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Notebook: Panthers QB Cam Newton spreads it around in another solid effort

TAMPA, Fla. Newton spreads it around in another solid effort

Going through his progressions with time in the pocket, Cam Newton capped off one of his best three-game stretches of his career by hitting nine receivers Thursday night.

Newton overcame big drops by Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon LaFell to post a 221-yard passing game with the help of four wide receivers, two tight ends, two running backs and a fullback in the 31-13 win against Tampa Bay.

Ginn led the way with 80 yards on five, but Steve Smith finished with four catches for 37 yards. Fullback Mike Tolbert’s four catches for 29 led the backfield, and No. 2 receiver LaFell had 23 yards and Greg Olsen had 21.

Five Panthers had multiple catches, and seldom-used receiver Domenik Hixon, running back Kenjon Barner, tight end Richie Brockel and running back DeAngelo Williams each had one catch.

Hixon’s grab for 4 yards was only his second catch of the season after coming to the Panthers this offseason in hopes of becoming Carolina’s No.3 receiver. Brockel’s 12-yard gain in the red zone at the end of the third quarter was his first catch of the season.

Corner change : Five days after he was benched during the second half of a win against St. Louis, Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas was inactive for Thursday’s game.

Thomas missed Tuesday’s practice with an illness, but he practiced Wednesday and was listed as probable.

Thomas gave up two deep passes against the Rams – one of which was negated by a penalty.

Thomas also was beaten deep twice in a Week 1 loss to Seattle, including on Russell Wilson’s winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

Second-year corner Josh Norman was active for the first time since a Week 3 victory against the Giants, when he played mostly special teams. Norman has been in the doghouse since he blew a coverage on the winning touchdown in Week 2 at Buffalo.

The Panthers’ other inactives included defensive tackles Sione Fua and Dwan Edwards, running back Armond Smith, tight end Brandon Williams, and young wideouts Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King.

Getting in work : Running back Jonathan Stewart and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards were on the field before the game running and working out as they continued their recoveries.

Stewart, who has been on the physically unable to perform list since training camp following offseason surgeries on both ankles, began practicing this week and hopes to play next week against Atlanta.

Edwards missed his fifth consecutive game with a hamstring injury.

In flames : As many as 19 “Fire Schiano” billboards popped up in and around Tampa this week, imploring the Buccaneers’ franchise to fire head coach Greg Schiano a year and a half into his tenure.

Schiano and the Bucs went 7-9 last year but started this season 0-6 entering Thursday night’s game.

The billboard was in bold white lettering with a dark background with flames.

Observations

• Jerome Boger was the referee for the game. He last officiated a Carolina game last year against Oakland when Cam Newton bumped him after a no-call.

• Normally sure-handed wide receiver Vincent Jackson dropped his first pass of the game. He had separation from Melvin White but couldn’t hold on to the first down.

• DeAngelo Williams limped off the field in the fourth quarter with an apparent leg injury. He would return soon after on the Mike Tolbert 3-yard touchdown catch.

• If not for two low snaps in the first half, the Bucs could have been much closer. Mike Glennon was sacked twice on low snaps that killed drives.

• Steve Smith went down with a left leg injury midway through the third quarter but returned a handful of plays.

By the numbers

5 consecutive coin tosses the Panthers have won, deferring on each one.

98 straight games Steve Smith has caught a pass.

3 points allowed by Carolina in the first quarter of all games this season.

50 rushing yards for Cam Newton, the most he’s had in a game all year.

Quotes

• “Doesn’t effect me. People are certainly entitled to their opinion. Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, on how the “Fire Schiano” billboards that have gone up in Tampa, bought by a radio station, effect him.

• “It falls on me.” Schiano, on his team’s 0-7 start.

• “He’s going to kick himself. He knows it.” Panthers coach Ron Rivera on Ted Ginn’s drop of a potential touchdown pass in the second quarter.

• “I never doubted this group of guys.” Rivera, on his team’s rally from a 1-3 start to a 4-3 record.

Jonathan Jones

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