Quarterback Cam Newton stayed hot Tampa Bay stayed cold and the Panthers broke through the .500 barrier for the first time in five years.

Newton rushed for a season-high 55 yards and accounted for three touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a 31-13 win over the hapless Buccaneers on Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium which featured large swaths of empty seats.

The Panthers (4-3) won their third in a row and have a winning record for the first time during the regular season since Week 17 in 2008 a span of 70 games.

The Bucs (0-7) have lost 12 of their last 13 games dating to last season under embattled second-year coach Greg Schiano. On a day when the Bucs hosted the league's only game Schiano awoke to find a "Fire Schiano" billboard had been unveiled in Tampa.

But he'll get little empathy from the Panthers who will take the weekend off before hosting Atlanta in another NFC South game Nov. 3 in Charlotte.

Newton came into Thursday's game on a roll having posted two of his three highest single-game completion percentages and passer ratings in victories against Minnesota and St. Louis. He combined to complete 35 of 43 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in the wins over the Vikings and Rams.

Newton completed 23 of 32 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns against the Bucs and also ran for a score.

Newton's performance was in stark contrast to his showing in the Panthers' 36-7 loss to the Giants during a Thursday night game last season when Newton finished with three interceptions and a career-low 40.6 passer rating.

“Cam Newton learned his lesson a year ago on a Thursday night when they played against the New York Giants. Trying to put a show on for America he failed miserably" Deion Sanders said during NFL's Network pregame show. "He understands the game now and what it takes to be this type of big-time player.”

The Panthers led 14-6 at the half and could have been up by more. Leading 14-3 a streaking Ted Ginn Jr. had a perfectly thrown pass by Newton go through his hands.

Newton was 13 of 18 for 149 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

After forcing a three-and-out on the Bucs' first possession the Panthers put together an impressive 15-play 70-yard touchdown drive to go up 7-0 on Newton's 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen.