Originally written on Pro Football Spot  |  Last updated 11/19/14
Marley And Me was the top dog at the weekend box office, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” had a ring around the Billboard Hot 100, and this thing called Twitter just began its emergence. This was just a bit of what was going on in our world during the final week of December 2008. It was also the last time Carolina held a record above .500, going 12-4 en route to their last NFC South title. That daunting drought, however, was finally ended on Thursday night with the Panthers’ 31-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.The Panthers (4-3) were led by another highly efficient performance from quarterback Cam Newton. He completed 23 of his 32 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Newton dominated on the ground as well, rushing for 50 yards on 11 attempts including a 6-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers up 21-6 with six minutes left in the third quarter.Mike Tolbert, the recipient of one of Newton’s passing scores, was another key to the team’s offensive output. Tolbert ran for 35 yards on seven carries and caught four passes for 29 yards. The fullback has now scored in four of his last five games.Linebacker Thomas Davis, once again, headed a stout defense. Davis recorded seven tackles (two for a loss) and batted away three passes. Defensive end Charles Johnson, who left during the game’s final minutes with a groin injury, led the team with two sacks. (The severity of Johnson’s injury is currently unknown.)The Panthers will now have a long week to prepare for their Week 9 home matchup against the 2-4 Atlanta Falcons.Three Up (by Anthony Rizzuti)1. More Consistency from CamThe Panthers were facing a 2nd and 10 in the waning minutes of the third quarter. Tampa’s Adrian Clayborn burst off the snap and squashed the hopes of a potential play action pass. But even though Newton went down for a loss of seven, the play could be chalked up as a positive one. The improvement of Newton’s decision-making certainly showed, as he tucked away the ball and took the sack. A younger Newton may have taken an ill-advised chance at his nearest receiver, Greg Olsen. Had he done so, Tampa would have probably picked him off deep into Panthers territory.Thursday night’s game gave us another glimpse of the methodical and efficient side of Cam. This was his third straight game of throwing zero interceptions and racking up a completion rate of at least 71.9%. Coincidentally (not really), all three games have resulted in wins. Newton’s combined completion percentage in the three wins is 77.3%, the best in the NFL since the start of Week 6. 2. Cam’s CompanyEveryone on tonight’s offense not named “Cam Newton” also came up went called upon. The Panthers received solid contributions across the box score from their backs and receivers. Although limited to a combined 15 touches, Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams both averaged at least 5.0 yard per carry. The passing game, additionally, received help from Ted Ginn (five receptions on six targets for 80 yards), Steve Smith (four receptions on seven targets for 42 yards) and Greg Olsen (three catches and a touchdown on four targets for 21 yards.) The numbers weren’t sparkling. They just did a job.Speaking of doing a job…3. Don’t Doubt the DefenseWith Tampa missing offensive standout in Doug Martin and starting an erratic rookie quarterback in Mike Glennon, the Panthers’ defense just had to take care of business. And they did. Outside of the final garbage time drives from Tampa, Sean McDermott’s unit played with level heads and the right amount of fire. Although they failed to force a turnover, the defense held a lowly offense to a lowly score. Three Down (by Joe Riollano)The Panthers are above .500 for the first time in 70 games. I can honestly say Cam and company are playing really great football right now. The biggest difference is in the play calling. Mike Shula is calling plays that cater to the teams strength's versus trying to fit the players into some type of play calling mold. That being said here are three things I am "down" on after the game.1. Offensive LineThe offensive line continues to disappoint. I can only imagine how scary good this team would be if this line was good. The Panthers are going to spend a high draft selection(s) on a quality starting offensive line man or two. I am thankful Cam is such a talented runner, because if he was not then he would have been sacked numerous times in this game and over the course of this season. Offensive line is just playing poorly.2. Brandon LaFell Man this guy is consistently inconsistent. One week he looks like a legitimate number two receiver, then the next week he makes you wonder why he is on the roster. This is not good, his drops may end up costing us in a close game. Lafell needs to get it together. I'm thankful his drops did not lead to a let down as they did in the Arizona game.3. Panthers For Real?The last thing I am down on is not a player or position group. I am down on the Panthers winning. I mean I am down on them because of their success be limited to beating abysmal teams. The combined record of the teams the Panthers have beaten is 5-20. Not very impressive. But big games are on the horizon, so we will see just how good the Panthers really are.Notes:- The Panthers are the second team since 1935 to not allow a first half touchdown through their first seven games.- Cam Newton is the first quarterback in NFL history to score at least 50 passing touchdowns and at least 20 rushing touchdown over any three-year span.- This was Newton’s ninth game since 2011 of at least two passing touchdowns and at least one rushing touchdown. That is the most over that span.

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