Bucs can’t keep Newton on ground
To a man, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers knew what was coming. Still, they couldn’t do anything about it. Late in the opening half, 6-foot-5 quarterback Cam Newton used his length and athleticism to extend Carolina’s lead to 17-6 with a fourth-down touchdown leap that justified the faith of coach Ron Rivera. “I felt obligated to get the football in the end zone by any means necessary,’’ Newton said after posting his team-high sixth rushing score of the season.

A 30-yard screen pass to tight end Greg Olsen gave the Panthers a first down at the 8-yard line, and three consecutive running plays left Rivera with a tough fourth-down decision, with the ball resting a yard away from the Tampa Bay end zone. “To me, it was a point in the game where if you can score points going in, I think it sends a really good message,’’ Rivera said. “If you don’t score the points, the way we were playing on defense, I felt really confident in our guys as a team.’’

Each club called a timeout to prepare for the pivotal snap and Newton vaulted over the top behind a nine-man front, extending the ball past the goal line just before Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis jarred it loose. “We knew what they were going to do,’’ said Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David, who finished with nine tackles and his third interception of the season. “Cam made it across by a slim margin. He got it over the line before we could get to the ball.’’

Newton also dashed 56 yards around left end in the opening quarter to set up a go-ahead touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell, but it was Newton’s clutch scoring run that broke open a tight game. “You’ve got an athletic guy who made an athletic play,’’ Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “It’s not tough, we just have to stop them.’’

Because Bucs coach Greg Schiano chose not to use all three of his timeouts during that crucial sequence, only 25 seconds remained in the second quarter when Tampa Bay began the ensuing drive at its 20-yard line. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon took a knee to end the half.