Tampa, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Carolina Panthers find themselves in unfamiliar territory.
On the flip side, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers remain in a freefall.
Cam Newton threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as the Panthers cruised to a 31-13 victory over the winless Buccaneers Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium.
Newton had 221 yards on 23-of-32 passing and added 50 yards rushing for the Panthers (4-3), who have won three in a row to move above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2008 season.
Rookie Mike Glennon completed 30-of-51 passes for 275 yards with a fourth- quarter touchdown pass for Tampa Bay (0-7), which has opened a season with seven consecutive losses for the second time in five years.
"We just made some errors that are going to keep you from winning games," said Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano.
The Panthers built a 14-3 lead after a pair of long touchdown drives.
Newton was 7-of-8 on an opening possession that featured 15 plays and consumed nearly nine minutes. Newton moved the chains by scrambling for 16 yards on 3rd-and-12 from the Tampa Bay 35 before finding a wide-open Greg Olsen for a 1-yard TD on another third down.
After Tampa Bay countered with a 47-yard Rian Lindell field goal, the Panthers covered 80 yards in six plays. Fullback Mike Tolbert closed out the first quarter with 22-yard run to near midfield, then Newton hit Ted Ginn, Jr., who broke a tackle on a crossing pattern. The 35-yard catch-and-run converted a 3rd-and-3 from the Tampa Bay 47, and DeAngelo Williams raced to the end zone on the next play.
Carolina's offense stalled for a bit after opening the game with the two impressive drives.
"Execution was the key to this game," Newton said. "We came out on fire as an offense, put up 14 points. Then hit a lull."
The Panthers found their rhythm again in the third quarter. Following a three- and-out by Tampa Bay, the Panthers got the ball back at their 47-yard line.
Facing a 4th-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 28, Tolbert powered his way for two yards, getting the first down with his second effort. Newton then followed up a 19-yard run with a 6-yard dash for a touchdown.
Later in the third, Tampa Bay's Eric Page muffed a punt and Carolina recovered the fumble. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Newton and Tolbert hooked up for a 3-yard scoring strike.
Graham Gano added a 29-yard field before Glennon connected with Tim Wright for a 10-yard TD with 2:53 to play.