CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Cam Newton walked into the press conference Sunday afternoon, flashed that familiar smile and gave a tip of the hat to his former college team.
“War Eagle. War Eagle. War. Damn. Eagle,” Newton said.
Less than 24 hours after the Auburn Tigers pulled off an incredible victory over No. 1 Alabama, Newton had another reason to smile.
Carolina’s third-year quarterback capped a memorable weekend by throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns and “Superman” leaped over the pile for another score as the Panthers (9-3) defeated Tampa Bay 27-6 Sunday for a franchise-record eighth straight regular season victory.
“It wasn’t prototypical, or the way we wanted to win, but we found a way to win and that’s the most encouraging part about it,” said Newton, who rebounded from two interceptions.
The victory set up a huge game next Sunday night in New Orleans against the Saints with first place in the NFC South on the line.
“We’re ready,” said fullback Mike Tolbert, who had 48 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving in the win. “Around here we pride ourselves on being able to follow up one game with another.”
Newton ran for 68 yards, 53 on a first-quarter run to set up Carolina’s first touchdown. Newton, who led Auburn to a national championship and won a Heisman Trophy with the Tigers, is enjoying the best stretch of this professional career with 13 touchdown passes and five TDs rushing during the win streak.
Carolina’s defense came in allowing an NFL-low 13.7 points per game and forced two turnovers and sacked rookie Mike Glennon five times to snap Tampa Bay’s three-game win streak.
The Panthers have not lost since a 22-6 defeat on the road to Arizona on Oct. 6 and confidence is at an all-time high.
“There is no roof, no sky,” defensive end Greg Hardy said. “We’re going up. Every person on this team, every coach on this team has the same mentality right now. I feel like it’s contagious. Fans are getting it. They feel like they can’t be beat.”
Broncos 35, Chiefs 28: In Kansas City, Peyton Manning threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns, four to Eric Decker, as Denver held off a furious rally to seize control of the AFC West.
Decker had eight catches for a career-high 174 yards for the Broncos, who moved a game clear of the Chiefs in the division. With four games left, Denver also holds the tiebreaker by virtue of two wins over Kansas City in the last three weeks.
Bengals 17, Chargers 10: In San Diego, Andy Dalton threw a go-ahead, 21-yard touchdown pass to wide-open A.J. Green late in the third quarter.
San Diego (5-7) lost the momentum it gained with a thrilling comeback win at Kansas City a week earlier and saw its playoff hopes dwindle.
Eagles 24, Cardinals 21: In Philadelphia, Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes and the Eagles held on. Zach Ertz had two TD catches, LeSean McCoy ran for 79 yards as the Eagles won their fourth straight to remain tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East.
Carson Palmer threw for 302 yards and three TD passes, but also had two interceptions and lost a fumble as the Cardinals (7-5) had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Patriots 34, Texans 31: In Houston, Tom Brady threw for 371 yards and two scores, and Stephen Gostkowski made two long field goals in the fourth.
The Texans’ franchise-record skid reached 10 games. Gary Kubiak coached from the sideline for the first time since suffering a mini-stroke Nov. 3.
Colts 22, Titans 14: In Indianapolis, Adam Vinatieri equaled his career high with five field goals, including a 49-yarder to give the Colts the lead for good late in the third quarter.
Vikings 23, Bears 20 (OT): In Minneapolis, Blair Walsh’s 34-yard field goal with 1:43 left in overtime gave the Vikings the victory after both teams missed kicks in the extra period.
49ers 23, Rams 13: In San Francisco, Anquan Boldin caught nine passes from Colin Kaepernick.
Dolphins 23, Jets 3: In East Rutherford, New Jersey, Ryan Tannehill threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns, leading Miami past the listless Jets.
Falcons 34, Bills 31: In Toronto, Matt Bryant hit a 36-yard field goal 3 minutes into overtime in Buffalo’s annual “home” game.
Jaguars 32, Browns 28: In Cleveland, Cecil Shorts caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne with 40 seconds left, rallying Jacksonville.
Giants 24, Redskins 17: In Landover, Maryland, Eli Manning completed 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards, and Justin Tuck had four sacks to help shut down Robert Griffin.