CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton keeps breaking records and turning heads with his incredible athletic ability.
The No. 1 pick in the NFL draft broke Peyton Manning's rookie record for yards passing and set a franchise mark with a 91-yard touchdown toss to Brandon LaFell as the Carolina Panthers handed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers their ninth straight defeat, 48-16 on Saturday.
Newton threw for 171 yards and three touchdowns and scored on a remarkable 49-yard run up the middle in which he outraced smaller defensive backs to the end zone.
The Panthers (6-9) scored on eight of their first nine possessions and piled up 397 yards in three quarters against the league's 30th-ranked defense. Carolina coach Ron Rivera pulled Newton and the other key starters early in the fourth.
DeAngelo Williams scored on runs of 8 and 22 yards, his sixth and seventh TDs of the season, and Jonathan Stewart ran for 88 yards and caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Newton.
Newton entered the game needing 18 yards passing to break Manning's record of 3,739 and did so with a 7-yard pass to LaFell on the first possession.
"It's tremendous, but if you ask the young man he'll tell you the most important thing is we won the game," Rivera said. "There's a lot of good things ahead for us."
Newton, however, was just getting started at that point.
On Carolina's third possession, he backpedaled into his own end zone and unleashed a strike to LaFell, who got a key downfield block from Steve Smith to spring him for a 91-yard score. That topped the franchise record of 89 yards set in the Panthers' expansion season of 1995 by Kerry Collins and Willie Green.
LaFell finished with a career-high 103 yards receiving.
Carolina's offensive line completely mauled a Bucs defense that was without starting defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth and Brian Price. The Panthers piled up a season-high 270 yards rushing and scored three times on the ground, giving them 25 for the season — most in the league.
The Panthers dominated the Bucs (4-11) this season to secure third place in the NFC South.
Newton scored eight touchdowns in two games against Tampa Bay — four rushing and four passing — as the Panthers racked up 79 points.
Just as they did on Dec. 4, the Panthers jumped all over the Bucs early.
Newton led the Panthers on a picture-perfect, 80-yard, nine-play touchdown drive to open the game, with Williams scoring on an 8-yard touchdown run.
LaGarrette Blount fumbled on the Bucs' first play from scrimmage and the Panthers converted that turnover into a field goal. Blount was benched for the rest of the first half and finished with just 11 yards rushing.
The Panthers led 20-10 at halftime but put the hammer down in the third quarter as Williams ran for a 22-yard touchdown and Newton threw an 11-yard scoring pass to Stewart on fourth-and-1 to put Carolina up 34-10.Comment on this story
Then came the play of the game as Newton faked a handoff to Stewart and took off through a huge hole on the right side of the line. Newton juked a defender before shifting into another gear and blowing through the Tampa Bay secondary for the longest touchdown run ever by a Panthers quarterback.
He added a touchdown toss to Jeremy Shockey to close out the scoring.
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris came into the game on the hot seat and Saturday's loss may not bode well for his future. After a 4-2 start, the Bucs have dropped nine straight, scoring more than 20 points only once during that span.
Josh Freeman threw for 274 yards and accounted for both Tampa Bay touchdowns — one passing and one rushing.