Keys to victory: Newton, Newton, Newton

What were the keys to the Carolina Panthers 31-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night?

There was really only one: the continued rise of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton effective with the short passes

Newton has succeeded recently by shortening things up.

He was 20-for-24 for 171 yards and two touchdowns on throws of 10 or fewer yards downfield.

Newton has completed 77 percent of his throws, with six touchdowns and no interceptions, in the past three games.

In the first four games of the season, Newton’s average throw was at a target 10 yards downfield. That average target has been 6.5 yards downfield in the past three games.

… and against the blitz, too

Newton was 11-for-15 for 84 yards and two touchdowns against five or more pass-rushers Thursday.

That was noteworthy because the Buccaneers had only allowed two touchdown throws when sending five or more pass-rushers in their first six games of the season.

Newton finished Thursday with a Total QBR of 86.4. He’s had three consecutive games with an 85 or better, with those representing three of his best eight games in a 39-game NFL career.

Did you know?

Newton has 15 games with at least 200 yards passing, a touchdown pass and a touchdown run.

That’s tied with John Elway and Donovan McNabb for the fourth-most of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era. The only active quarterback with more is Michael Vick, with 17.

Steve Young has the most such games in that span, with 21.