Rapid Reaction: Carolina Panthers

TAMPA, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 31-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

What it means: The NFL's longest active streak with a record not above .500 is over at 70 consecutive games. Carolina improved to 4-3, the first time it has had a winning record since the end of the 2008 season. That is big for a team trying to establish itself as a playoff contender. That the Panthers were able to take care of the winless Buccaneers in business-like fashion also was big. This is the type of game they might have lost in the past, but they took the lead early and stayed in control. It also means Carolina is 1-0 in the NFC South.

Stock watch: Quarterback Cam Newton continued to play at an unbelievably high level of consistency. After going 35-for-43 (81.3 percent) in the past two games, he went 23-for-32 (72 percent) for 221 yards and two touchdowns. One of his best throws of the night, a deep pass to Ted Ginn Jr., went through the receiver's hands to cost him a potential third touchdown. Newton finished with a passer rating of 111.6, his third consecutive game of that or higher, which is his best streak as a pro. But this wasn't all about Newton's arm. He had his best rushing performance of the season, carrying nine times for a team-high 50 yards and one touchdown.

Shot of Ginn: Despite letting a touchdown pass go through his arms in the first half, Ted Ginn Jr. continues to be a receiving threat. He had three catches for 69 yards in the first half and finished with a team-high five catches for 80 yards. He has been particularly effective on slants and crossing routes.

A first in the first: Tampa Bay's 47-yard field goal was the first time this season Carolina's defense gave up points in the first quarter. The only other first-quarter points the Panthers surrendered came on a safety.

Changing stripes: Coach Ron Rivera really has changed his stripes when it comes to going for it on fourth down. Up 14-6 in the third quarter when a field goal would give Carolina a two-score lead, he gambled and made it for the fourth time in his past six tries after being criticized for not going for it late at Buffalo.

What's next? The Panthers play host to the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC South game. These teams split last season with each winning at home.