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Panthers keep Newton clean

Posted Dec 1, 2013

CHARLOTTE – As division rivals, the Panthers are all too familiar with how the Buccaneers like to approach a game on defense.

"They are an attacking, downhill, blitz-pressure defense," tight end Greg Olsen said. "That's what they are on defense. They want to get after the quarterback."

Tampa Bay stayed true to that philosophy in Week 13 at Bank of America Stadium, bringing the blitz consistently.

"That stuff is really feast or famine for them," center Ryan Kalil said.

The Buccaneers went hungry on Sunday.

For the first time this season, Carolina didn't allow a sack, and Tampa Bay didn't register a single quarterback hit. Conversely, the Panthers sacked Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon five times.

"They just dominated us," Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.

Five instances stand out where Carolina effectively countered Tampa Bay's blitz.

• On second-and-11 from the Carolina 29-yard line in the first quarter, the Buccaneers rushed six, but Newton was given time to survey the field before taking off for a 56-yard run.

• On second-and-nine from the Carolina 20-yard line on the Panthers first possession of the second quarter, Tampa Bay rushed six and Newton hit wide receiver Steve Smith for a 16-yard gain over the middle.

• Later in that drive, Newton stood tall and delivered another strike over the middle to Olsen for a 10-yard gain against pressure on third-and-seven.

• Later in the second quarter, the Panthers used a screen to foil a blitz as Newton floated a backside pass to Olsen for a 30-yard gain. When he threw the pass, six Buccaneers had rushed behind the line of scrimmage.

• On first-and-10 from the Carolina 36-yard line early in the third quarter, Newton remained calm in a collapsing pocket and found Olsen crossing the field for a 28-yard catch and run.

Not only did the Panthers counter the blitz, but they countered it with chunk plays.

"(Our offensive line) has worked very hard at picking up blitzes," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Secondly, our backs did a really nice job with the blitz pick up when they had to.

"We have to look at ways to continue to keep (Newton) clean."

Left tackle Jordan Gross said the Panthers were well-prepared for the aggressive pressure packages they faced from the Tampa Bay defense, which sacked Newton three times in the Week 8 meeting.

"Any time you play a team a second time you are more prepared," Gross said. "We had a full week of practice against it, and our coaches do a really great job showing us all the looks we are going to see."

Added Kalil: "I thought the communication was really good today. They called up some good pressures that went right into some of our runs, but we were able to go over the top (in the passing game). We did a really good job fitting up on defenders."

And as a result, Newton was able to exploit holes in the coverage.

"Our offensive line is as good as there is with recognition, picking up blitzes and doing all that stuff," Olsen said. "Cam is really seeing things clear and getting the ball out. We were really dialed in, and it was a key to the game."