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Bucs edge Panthers to begin Schiano era

Sep 10, 2012 - 2:00 AM Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Connor Barth made three field goals and Josh Freeman threw a touchdown pass in the first quarter, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened the Greg Schiano era with a 16-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Freeman completed 16-of-24 passes for 138 yards for the Buccaneers (1-0), who went 4-12 last year.

Doug Martin carried the ball 24 times for 95 yards for Tampa Bay, which lost its final 10 games last season. That led to the firing of former coach Raheem Morris. Schiano was hired after a successful 11-year stint at Rutgers University.

"That was a good team win," Schiano said. "I'm really happy for the guys. They've worked awfully hard and for them to be able to get a win after all that is good. Now the journey begins."

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who set a number of records in winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2011, connected on 23-of-33 passes for 303 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

"You can't win with turnovers," Newton said.

Steve Smith caught seven passes for 106 yards for the Panthers (0-1), who went 6-10 last year. Brandon LaFell hauled in three passes for 65 yards and a score.

Carolina's running game struggled all day without Jonathan Stewart, who sat out with a right ankle injury. The Panthers had just 10 yards on the ground.

The Buccaneers' first possession of the 2012 season resulted in a touchdown. Tampa Bay converted a pair of third downs during the 13-play, 80-yard drive. Freeman used his legs to gain two yards and pick up a fresh set of downs on 3rd-and-1. He followed with two passes of at least 11 yards to move the ball into Carolina territory. On 3rd-and-2 from the 24, Vincent Jackson caught a seven-yard pass. After an 11-yard Martin run, Freeman found Mike Williams in the middle of the end zone for a six-yard score.

Tampa Bay's next possession started at midfield due to a 15-yard fair catch interference penalty on the Panthers. Ex-Colt Dallas Clark hauled in a 33-yard pass on the first play, but the home team settled for a 36-yard Barth field goal.

Carolina's offense didn't cross midfield until early in the second quarter. The Panthers got down to the 33 of the Bucs before Newton lost five yards. On 3rd-and-13, Newton failed to hook up with Smith.

Freeman then led the Bucs down to the one-yard line. The Panthers' defense, however, came up with a big stop. Barth made a 20-yard field goal to make it a 13-0 game with 2:55 left in the half.

Carolina's first touchdown of the year came with 8:55 left in the third stanza. Greg Olsen caught an 11-yard pass on third down and Smith hauled in a 32-yard pass on the next play. LaFell's 22-yard TD catch cut the gap to 13-7.

Both of Newton's interceptions came in the third period. The Bucs, however, failed to capitalize off the turnovers.

Tampa Bay was set up at the Carolina 42 after blocking a punt early in the fourth. The Buccaneers settled for a 40-yard field goal from Barth.

Justin Medlock responded with a 21-yard field goal with 2:46 remaining, making it a 16-10 contest.

Jackson caught a pass for four yards on third down and the Bucs ran the rest of the clock out.

Game Notes

The Panthers lead the all-time series by a 14-10 margin ... In 2011, Newton threw for an NFL-rookie record 4,051 yards while completing 21 touchdown passes and adding another NFL single-season best for field generals by scoring 14 rushing touchdowns ... Tampa Bay racked up 130 yards on the ground ... Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber extended his NFL record for consecutive starts by a defensive back to an even 200 on Sunday. He had an interception ... Aqib Talib's block of Brad Nortman's punt in the fourth quarter was the first blocked punt by a Buccaneer since 2009.