The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are officially the butt of many jokes across the nation after their 31-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at home. Many predicted another Buccaneers loss and Tampa Bay proved them right.
Before every game each week beat writer Gil Arcia comes out with his Five Keys To Victory. Then after the game takes a look at how the team fared in meeting the objectives. The following is an analysis on how Tampa Bay did against the keys to victory as well as grades.
Key 1. Don’t Get Run Over
Original Key: The Carolina Panthers are in seventh in the league in rushing averaging just over 130 yards per game. The Buccaneers are fifth in the league in run defense as they are holding opponents to 88.8 yards a contest. But Tampa Bay has multiple weapons to worry about running the football like DeAngelo Williams and short yardage/goal line bruiser Mike Tolbert.
Fortunately for the Bucs, they are tough inside the red zone. They are fourth best in the league with allowing just eight touchdowns on 20 trips inside the 20-yard line by their opponent. With that said, if the Bucs can hold the Panthers’ running attack, that should limit Carolina in their efforts.
Key Result: Tampa Bay was able to stop the run just a few weeks ago but on Thursday night, their string of misfortunes against the run continued.
Running back DeAngelo Williams had 43 yards rushing on eight carries including a 12-yard touchdown run. Mike Tolbert also scored a touchdown and had 35 yards on seven carries. Add in quarterback Cam Newton’s 50 yards and a touchdown on the ground, the Buccaneers’ defense gave up 129 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on the night.
The Bucs gave up found themselves out of position countless times and could not figure out a way to slow down the Panthers’ running attack.
Key 2. Spy Cam
Original Key: Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is a threat that has been on fire as of late. The Panthers have won three of their last four and the primary reason for that is because of Newton’s play on the field.
Newton has thrown for seven touchdowns in that span and has run for two more. His passer rating is 95 and has completed over 63 percent of his passes. However, the Bucs had success against him in 2012 allowing just two touchdowns while forcing two interceptions and look to continue that Thursday night. With Carolina ranking near the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed, look for Tampa Bay to get after Newton early and often if they can get any penetration from their front four. The risk of not being able to get to Newton can be avoided by having a linebacker spy Newton similar to how they did so last season.
It shouldn't stop there though because Tampa Bay is at their best when bringing pressure and giving mixed looks along the front seven. Once they start reverting to zone, Newton will have options to pass and run the football. That is where Tampa Bay can find themselves in trouble.
Key Result: Similar to their rush defense, the Bucs did not have an answer for Cam Newton. Carolina’s third-year quarterback finished the game 23-for-32 for 221 yards, two touchdowns, and a passer rating of 111.6.
Newton was more than just a threat in the air. His scrambling ability allowed him to rush for 50 yards and occasionally got out of a sack. Newton’s mobility also gave Carolina two first downs on third down plays due to Tampa Bay’s defense breaking containment.
Although he was sacked three times, the Bucs defense gave up too much offensive productive to just one player.
Key 3. Cool Them Off
Original Key: The Panthers have scored 30 or more points in three of their last four games while the Buccaneers defense has given up 31 points in each of the last two games. As the defense for the Bucs declines, the offense slowly increases their production. Granted they are not stride for stride with the opposition on the scoreboard but their best defense Thursday night may be their offense.
That concept will be difficult as Carolina’s defense ranks third overall — fourth against the run and fifth against the pass. But the Bucs have to keep Carolina’s offense off the field and the best way to do so is controlling the clock. If they can figure out a way to do that, they can find themselves in good position to win the game.
Key Result: The Carolina Panthers continued their hot play against the Buccaneers Thursday night. After Carolina beat the Bucs 31-13, Panthers have now scored 30 or more points in four of their last five games while Tampa Bay has given up 31 points in three straight contests.
The Panthers’ stopped the Bucs in every phase of the game. Tampa Bay got nothing going on the ground and the majority of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon’s production came from check downs and when Carolina was in a soft zone near the end of the game.
Carolina controlled the clock for most of the game. The Panthers carried a 20-minute difference in time of possession before Tampa Bay’s scoring drive that ate up just over 12 minutes of clock. Overall, Carolina had their way with the Bucs and the final score could have easily been much larger.
Key 4. Stop Being So Offensive
Original Key: The Bucs’ offensive line has allowed 14 sacks this season which is seventh best in the NFL. That number could be a lot higher if it weren’t for Mike Glennon and Josh Freeman in the first three weeks moving out of the pocket. They haven’t been able to provide assistance in the running game either as the running game is averaging below four yards a carry as a team.
Penalties have also ruined chances. Right guard Davin Joseph’s hands-to-the-face penalty on Sunday wiped a touchdown off the board for the Bucs late in the game. Donald Penn and Ted Larsen also had penalties in crucial moments of the game Sunday that set the Bucs offense back.
If the offensive line continues with their undisciplined play, they’ll continue to leave more and more points out on the field.
Key Result: The offensive line woes continued against Carolina. Miscues like low snaps from Ted Larsen to protection breakdowns, the line play continued to underperform. The holding penalties on veterans Donald Penn and Davin Joseph are also not helping.
There were flashes of potential success Thursday night but it never came to fruition. They just managed to get 48 yards on the ground and Glennon was sacked three times. That number could have been a lot more if it weren’t for him hitting his checkdowns with defenders in his face and escaping out of a collapsing pocket.
A little bit of credit does go to the staff for actually making an adjustment. They moved Larsen to left guard and Jeremy Zuttah back to center. While that fixed the snaps, it didn’t improve the overall play.
Key 5. Under The Lights
Original Key: It’s the second appearance for the Buccaneers on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football at Raymond James Stadium. The first was Saturday December 17, 2011 but the game was a “special edition” to the network’s weekly series. The Bucs hosted the Dallas Cowboys and lost 31-15 — a loss that was one of the last 10 in a row. However, that game was well over at halftime when Tampa Bay trailed 28-0.
The Buccaneers can’t have another showing like that one in their own house in a primetime atmosphere. With everything that has circled the team this season, another humiliating loss on national television will just worsen the national perspective of the organization. If that happens, it can no longer be blamed on one single aspect; From the coaches to the players to the front office, everyone must be held accountable.
Key Result: The Bucs’ 31-13 loss to the Panthers is close to their 31-15 loss to the Cowboys mentioned above. That late season game in 2011 showed the players not playing their hardest and while that is a hard thing to accuse players of, it was really close to that Thursday.
There were mental lapses on the field, bad decisions made from the sidelines, and fans letting the head coach have it after the game. The situation inside the Buccaneers’ locker room may have gone from bad to worse with key veteran players giving different opinions on the feel inside the locker room. Team owners got into separate SUVs without greeting anyone and quietly were chauffeured away into the cold and gloomy night.