Second-year players Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffrey each scored two touchdowns as the Carolina Panthers turned a record-setting first half into a 42-28 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
Samuel's 19-yard touchdown catch with 9:04 remaining halted Tampa Bay's momentum as the Panthers (6-2) won their third game in a row.
McCaffrey ran for a pair of first-half touchdowns as the Panthers set a franchise record with 35 first-half points.
Quarterback Cam Newton threw for two touchdowns, completing 19 of 25 passes for 247 yards without an interception.
Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick returned to the starting lineup, replacing erratic Jameis Winston, and threw four touchdown passes but was intercepted twice.
Tight end O.J. Howard and receiver Adam Humphries caught two Fitzpatrick touchdown passes apiece.
A 30-yard pass play to Humphries with 14:24 remaining allowed the Buccaneers (3-5) to trim the margin to 35-28.
But two more Tampa Bay possessions went for naught, including when Donte Jackson picked off Fitzpatrick with 3:37 to play. Fitzpatrick ended up 24-for-40 passing for 243 yards.
The Panthers led 35-14 at halftime, eclipsing their full-game point total for every outing this season except for last week's 36-21 toppling of Baltimore.
Carolina fullback Alex Armah scored on a 1-yard run to open the scoring. McCaffrey ran in from 3 yards out later in the first quarter.
Samuel scored on a double-reverse in the second quarter, counting as a 33-yard play, but he might have covered twice that much ground as he zig-zagged toward the end zone.
After McCaffrey's second touchdown run made the score 28-7, tight end Greg Olsen made a difficult catch of a Newton pass for a 17-yard scoring play.
Fitzpatrick threw two first-half touchdown passes to Howard, the second one on fourth down with 15 seconds left in the half.
As efficient as the Panthers were in the first half, they had a third-quarter possession when they were charged with all three second-half timeouts and turned the ball over on downs while leading 35-21.
--Field Level Media