Carolina Panthers

Panthers vs. Bucs instant analysis: Carolina might have found a pass rusher

Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, right, intercepts a pass by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston for a touchdown during first quarter action on Sunday. Norman also had a second interception in the game.
Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, right, intercepts a pass by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston for a touchdown during first quarter action on Sunday. Norman also had a second interception in the game. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Instant analysis from the Carolina Panthers’ 37-23 victory at Tampa Bay:

Carolina might have found a pass rusher. And it wasn’t Jared Allen, at least on this day.

While the Panthers’ trade for Allen, No. 9 all-time in sacks, generated headlines last week, their signing of defensive end Ryan Delaire from Washington’s practice squad went largely unnoticed.

Until Sunday.

Delaire sacked Bucs rookie quarterback Jameis Winston twice, and forced the No. 1 overall pick into an intentional grounding late in the fourth quarter.

Delaire, an undrafted rookie from Towson, had five tackles. Allen, who started at right end, had one tackle and one hit on Winston.

▪  We’re running out of adjectives for Josh Norman.

The Panthers’ four-year cornerback continued his remarkable start to the season.

Norman had his second pick-six of the season, intercepting Winston in the first quarter and returning it 46 yards for a touchdown. Newton’s two INTs for scores this year tied a Panthers’ record, and he has 12 games to break it.

Norman can expect another fine in his future after he was penalized for his touchdown celebration, in which he used the ball as a prop -- the make-believe saddle for his ride on an invisible horse across the back of the end zone.

Norman, who will be a free agent after the season, intercepted Winston again in the second half. And with each interception and pretend horse ride, his price goes up.

▪  The Panthers can win without a dominant Cam Newton.

Newton had accounted for every Panthers’ offensive touchdown before Sunday’s game. (After tight end Ed Dickson’s wacky fumble return for a touchdown against the Bucs, that’s no longer the case.)

It’s not like Newton played poorly. He just didn’t have to carry the whole load, thanks in large part to Norman’s continued brilliance and Winston’s generosity (four interceptions, one fumble).

Newton’s 124 passing yards were the second fewest of his career, behind only a 114-yard effort in Week 17 last year at Atlanta. Like Sunday, the Panthers had two returns for touchdowns in the division clincher vs. the Falcons.

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