TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kept the heat on Cam Newton all day, leaving the Carolina star little room to throw the ball and even less to run.
A defense that allowed an NFL-worst 494 points and ranked last against the run intercepted Newton twice and limited the running game to 10 yards as the Bucs won their debut under coach Greg Schiano 16-10 over the Pantherson Sunday.
Josh Freeman threw a 6-yard TD pass to Mike Williams and Connor Barth kicked three field goals to stop a 10-game losing streak that prompted the firing of former coach Raheem Morris. Schiano came to Tampa after spending 11 seasons transforming Rutgers from one of the losingest programs in college football into a Big East contender.
Newton threw for 303 yards and one touchdown. But the Panthers were shut out in the first half, and the interceptions he threw thwarted Carolina’s chances of overcoming the slow start.
Ronde Barber, making his 200th consecutive start, had one of Tampa Bay’s interceptions. The 37-year-old, who’s making the transition from cornerback to safety in his 16th season, also had one of the team’s three sacks.
Freeman completed his first eight passes, making use of three of the newcomers brought in to help him after the Bucs ranked 30th in rushing offense and 27th in points scored last season.
Rookie Doug Martin ran five times for 21 yards and caught a pass for 11 yards and receiver Vincent Jackson had a 7-yard reception on third-and-2 to set up Tampa Bay’s only touchdown. Tight end Dallas Clark gained 33 on his first catch as a Buc, leading to Barth’s 36-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Carolina outscored the Bucs 86-35 in a pair of lopsided victories last December, with Newton throwing for four touchdowns and running for four more in the two games.
A Tampa Bay defense upgraded by the drafting of safety Mark Barron and linebacker Lavonte David limited the Panthers to minus-1 yard rushing in the opening half, while the offense did its part to keep Newton off the field for long stretches by controlling the ball for nearly 19 minutes before halftime.
Newton threw for a league rookie record 4,051 yards and also set a single-season mark for rushing TDs by a quarterback, while accounting for 35 touchdowns — 21 passing and 14 on the ground. He threw a 22-yard TD pass to Brandon LaFell on Carolina’s first possession of the second half, but couldn’t get his team into the end zone again.
A late Panthers drive stalled at the Bucs 3, where they settled for Justin Medlock’s 21-yard field goal, trimming Tampa Bay’s lead to 16-10 with 2:46 remaining. But the Carolina defense unable to get the ball out, with Freeman running out the clock with help from Martin, who finished with 95 yards rushing on 24 carries.
Newton completed 23 of 33 passes. He was held to 4 yards rushing on five carries.
The Panthers flew to Florida four days early to prepare for the game in nearby Bradenton because the Democratic National Convention was scheduled to use Bank of America Stadium, which is adjacent to the team’s practice fields.
Credit: The Associated Press.