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(Saturday, December 24th)
Final Score: Carolina 48, Tampa Bay 16
Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Cam Newton broke Peyton Manning's NFL rookie passing record, throwing for 171 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Carolina Panthers to a 48-16 win over Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday.
Newton needed just 18 yards to break Manning's record of 3,739 yards for rookies.
He has 3,893 passing yards this season and is just 107 yards from becoming the first player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 10 or more touchdowns in a season.
Newton also rushed for a touchdown for Carolina (6-9) while DeAngelo Williams ran for 66 yards and two TDs. Brandon LaFell caught three passes for 103 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown -- the longest TD catch in team history.
"It felt great. It's always good for a starting quarterback to come out of the game early that's not injury related," Newton said. "For me to come in and do this is just a tribute to so many people that have helped me out," "Including my coaches and supporting cast it just helped me out."
The Buccaneers (4-11) had a dismal day offensively, turning the ball over four times en route to their ninth straight loss. Josh Freeman threw for 274 yards and a touchdown, but also one interception.
"You cannot expect to win games turning the ball over," said Bucs' head coach Raheem Morris. "Four turnovers today that led to points. That is the difference between last year and this year."
Kellen Winslow led all Tampa Bay receivers with six catches for 63 yards.
The Panthers struck first with an 80-yard drive capped by an eight-yard touchdown run from Williams.
Moments later Freeman fumbled the snap on the Buccaneers' first play from scrimmage and it was recovered by Carolina's James Anderson on the Tampa Bay eight yard-line.
The Buccaneers were able to keep the Panthers out of the end zone, forcing an Olindo Mare 21-yard field goal, giving Carolina a 10-0 lead.
Tampa answered back on its second drive after Freeman connected with Arrelious Benn for a four-yard touchdown pass. The play was initially ruled incomplete, but was overturned on a challenge.
The Panthers wasted no time getting into the end zone again as Newton hooked up with LaFell on the second play of the drive. Dropping back into his own end zone, and with the pocket collapsing, Newton hit LaFell with a strike and LaFell was able to shake a defender before a Steve Smith block took care of the last man to beat, giving Carolina a 17-7 lead.
Tampa Bay added a 42-yard field goal from Connor Barth after its next drive stalled while Carolina came back with a field goal of its own in the final minute of the half to take a 20-10 lead into the break.
"In the first half, excluding the first fumble, we had two drives and scored on both of them," Freeman said. "Then in the second half we came out turned the ball over and only had three possessions. Its tough, especially when you go into the half down 10."
Things only went downhill for the Bucs in the second half as Freeman's pass intended for Kellen Winslow was picked off by Jonathan Nelson and returned to Tampa's 32-yard line. Williams scored on a 22-yard touchdown.
Later, the Panthers were able to force a Winslow fumble before Newton hooked up with Jonathan Stewart for an 11-yard touchdown.
Carolina forced a Tampa punt with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter before Newton broke a 49-yard touchdown run, his 14th rushing touchdown of the season, taking a 41-10 lead.
The Panthers then forced a fumble on the kickoff before Newton hit Jeremy Shockey for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
Freeman was able to lead the Bucs down the field in the fourth quarter, rushing for a one-yard touchdown, but failed to complete a two-point conversion.
The Panthers defense was able to shut down the Bucs over the remaining 11:08 to secure their sixth win of the season.
"We got a big one coming up next week, it be great to finish strong in the division and send a message that we are a team to be reckoned with next year," Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said.
Newton's 14 rushing touchdowns is the most ever by a quarterback in league history...Tampa Bay deactivated defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth and Brian Price prior to the game...Bucs' cornerback Ronde Barber started his 198th consecutive game, an NFL record for cornerbacks.
12/24 19:16:36 ET