The Carolina Panthers won their third straight game on Thursday night, easily dispatching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-13 en route to their fourth win of the season. Cam Newton was almost perfect once again, but the Buccaneers have some soul searching to do following their seventh loss of the season.
Trust is a word you'll hear repeated a lot by Panthers' players, and it's the core reason the team is above .500 for the first time in five years. Newton is trusting his offensive players, while the normally conservative coaching staff believes its players are able to handle their jobs without micro-managing.
The Panthers are no longer an easy out. This is a team full of confidence, showing an ability to beat teams in a multitude of ways. Newton's latest incarnation is the accurate pocket passer, something he hasn't shown in the past. On Thursday night he completed 72-percent of his passes, throwing two touchdowns and running in another, all without a turnover.
Life in Tampa Bay isn't so rosy. Head coach Greg Schiano is being openly mocked by Buccaneers fans while signs calling for his head begin to dot the Florida sky. He has said publicly that all this team needs to do is win one game, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to pick out where that one win will come from.
Mike Glennon is starting to show the kind of quarterback he is, and that kind is an uneven kind. At times he shows a knack to find receivers in stride, but he too often he threw high or wide on Thursday night, particularly when asked to throw downfield. It took 51 passing attempts to reach 275 yards, with a majority of these passes falling in short-yardage situations.
This is a team supposed to be built on a staunch defense, but Tampa Bay was unable to stop any of Carolina's offensive weapons. It gets worse from here, as the Buccaneers are forced into the NFL's most hostile stadium to face the Seattle Seahawks.
Thursday's game showed how divergent these two 7-9 teams have become since 2012. The Panthers are talking about winning the division and the Buccaneers are left wondering when the plug will be pulled on their head coach.