Cam Newton, Defense Shine as Carolina Panthers Dismantle Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dilan Ames@@DilanAmesNFLCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2013

Cam Newton's three total touchdowns led the Panthers to victory on Sunday.
Cam Newton's three total touchdowns led the Panthers to victory on Sunday.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers won in blowout fashion against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, earning their eighth straight victory. Offensively, the Panthers were productive behind the arm and legs of Cam Newton, but it was the disruptive Panthers defense that really sealed this game for them.

Although Newton threw a pair of interceptions, he more than made up for it with his 263 yards passing and three touchdowns. As if he wasn't juiced enough because of his alma mater's huge win on Saturday, he also scampered for 56 yards on a play that set up an athletic touchdown dive over the pile by Newton.

While his numbers weren't too flashy, the former Heisman winner was simply effective. It's clear he's maturing as a team leader and player, and it's showing on the field. Look no further than the way Newton played following his two interceptions; he was able to brush it off and lead his squad to victory.

During Carolina's current win streak, Newton has notched 18 total touchdowns and has had a 66 percent completion rate.

Although he put on a solid performance, the defense was the true star for Carolina.

Coming into this game, Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon had thrown a touchdown in eight straight games, but the Panthers were able to maintain their composure and keep Tampa Bay out of the end zone. They did more than just keep the Bucs from scoring, though; the front seven was completely dominant against the Buccaneers offensive line, forcing two turnovers and recording four sacks.

Rookie defensive end Wes Horton led the charge with three tackles and two sacks, and he said the following after the game, per CBS Sports: "When we were 1-3 it was tense, we were trying to find ourselves as a team. And now we're rolling and everyone is on the same page."

Now that the Panthers have reached 9-3, they find themselves in an enviable spot as the playoffs approach.

An intimidating date with the division rival New Orleans Saints awaits them next week, which should make for a very interesting game. Even if they lose, the Panthers are still right in the thick of the playoff mix, with a great chance for (at the very least) a wild-card spot.

The Carolina offense is getting hot at the right time, and the defense continues to do well. You know what they say about defense winning championships.