Bucs Win Debut Under Schiano, 16-10 Over Panthers
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay’s rejuvenated defense had all the answers for Cam Newton.
Ronde Barber celebrated his 200th consecutive start with an interception, sack and key stop near the goal line on the Carolina star, helping the Buccaneers open the season with a 16-10 victory over the Panthers on Sunday.
Newton paced a pair of lopsided victories over the Bucs last December, throwing for four touchdowns and running for four more in the two games. A defense eager to redeem itself gave the former Heisman Trophy winner fits this time.
“This ain’t last year,” cornerback Aqib Talib said. “We’ve got a ton of new players, new coach, new staff. A new attitude. It ain’t last year, so we really didn’t worry about last year.”
Josh Freeman tossed a 6-yard TD pass to Mike Williams and Connor Barth kicked three field goals for the Bucs, who won in their first game under coach Greg Schiano.
Newton threw for 303 yards and one touchdown. But his second-half mistakes undermined the Panthers’ chances of ruining what the Bucs had promoted as “Ronde Barber Day” as well as the debut of Schiano, who inherited a team that lost the final 10 games of last season under Raheem Morris.
“You can’t win with turnovers,” Newton said. “Without any of those interceptions, I think we find a way to win this football game.”
Barber is lone holdover from Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl-winning team of 10 years ago.
Schiano brought the 37-year-old back for his 16th season in hopes Barber can continue to play at a high level and have a positive influence on young defensive players such as Talib and rookies Mark Barron and Lavonte David.
“This was fun to watch this defense go out and play the way they played,” the twin of former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber said.
“I don’t think anybody really knew what we were going to get. We had one real good showing in the preseason against New England. I don’t think I even knew how it would translate to Sundays,” Barber added. “Today, the way we played is something to be proud of. My individual performance was just a reflection of the way the defense played as a whole.”
Newton completed 23 of 33 passes, but Carolina’s running game was nonexistent. The versatile Newton was limited to 4 yards on five carries, DeAngelo Williams gained minus-1 on six attempts and the Panthers finished with just 10 yards rushing as a team.
Schiano came to Tampa after spending 11 seasons transforming Rutgers from one of the losingest programs in college football into a Big East contender.
The new Bucs defense is similar to one the coach ran with the Scarlet Knights and — for at least one game — produced the type of results that reminded Barber of some of the units he played on earlier in his career.
“It felt like old times, when we were a great defense back in the day, when guys played so fast,” Barber said. “You turned the film on and people would say, this film is sped up, it can’t possibly be this fast. That’s what it felt like out there. They have some very talented players, and we swarmed on them all day long, and kept Cam in check.”
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 drive stalled at the Bucs 3, where Barber stopped Newton for no gain on a third-down run to force the Panthers to settle for Justin Medlock’s 21-yard field goal, trimming Tampa Bay’s lead to 16-10 with 2:46 remaining.
Freeman didn’t give Newton a chance to be a last-minute hero, running out the clock with help from rookie Doug Martin, who finished with 95 yards rushing on 24 carries.
“Sixteen teams lost,” this week,” Panthers receiver Steve Smith said. “The Super Bowl champs lost, and we lost. So what does that mean? It means everybody has to get back to work.”
NOTES: Smith had seven receptions for 106 yards. … After hitting his first eight passes, Freeman went 8 for 16 to finish with 138 yards. He was sacked twice. … Barber is the only player in NFL history with at least 40 interceptions (44) and 25 sacks (28) in a career.
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