Upon Further Review: Panthers Week 13

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A review of four hot issues from the Carolina Panthers' 27-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

How confident are they? The Panthers are so confident that left tackle Jordan Gross said he hopes New Orleans beats Seattle on Monday night to make Sunday's NFC South showdown at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome even bigger. That's nice and all, but Gross really should be pulling for a Seattle victory. A loss by the Saints would leave them tied with Carolina at 9-3. That means the Panthers could take a one-game lead instead of move into a tie with a victory over the Saints in the first of two meetings over the next three weeks. A Saints loss tonight also would make New Orleans 7-1 in NFC games, giving Carolina (7-2 NFC) a chance to take the edge in that tiebreaker next week. Carolina is two games back of Seattle in the overall standings, with a 12-7 loss to the Seahawks in the opener that really makes it three games back.

Newton's 56-yard run: If you thought quarterback Cam Newton appeared ready to go down near the first-down marker early in his 56-yard, first-quarter run, you're right. But Newton thought otherwise when he saw wide receiver Steve Smith throw a block to seal off the left side, opening up a lane that got him to the 15. If you're wondering if Newton was tripped by Tampa's Dashon Goldson, or simply went down on his own, Newton said, "I'm going to stick to he tripped me up. ... I've just got to be better than that. I'm not going to hear the last of that.''

Why Hardy didn't start: Defensive end Greg Hardy was held out for the first two defensive snaps because he was late for a team meeting last week, the Charlotte Observer reported. Hardy also was fined an unspecified amount. That left the Panthers without both starting ends for the start of the game. Charles Johnson missed his second straight start with a sprained right knee. Hardy came back to record a sack and two quarterback hurries. Johnson is expected back this week against New Orleans.

Marquee move for Ginn: Tampa Bay's Darrelle Revis is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, so Carolina wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. should take great pride in the move that freed him for a 36-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. The hitch-and-go route left Ginn all alone down the left sideline, and Newton hit him in stride for the touchdown. It is yet another step in the development of Ginn -- who came to Carolina primarily as a kick returner -- into a quality receiver.

Halftime adjustments: If a good way to judge a team is how well it adjusts at halftime, then the Panthers are one of the elite teams. Tampa became the fourth opponent in the past five games that has failed to score against the Panthers in the second half. Only New England, with 17 second-half points, has scored. Overall, Carolina has given up 157 points to rank first in the NFL. In case you're wondering, the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season is 165 by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. The 1986 Chicago Bears, a team coach Ron Rivera played linebacker for, ranks second at 187.