MOST DISAPPOINTING BUCCANEERS vs. PANTHERS
Even without Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton playing in the 2014 season opener, Tampa Bay fell to the visiting Carolina Panthers, 20-14. The Bucs defense couldn’t get backup quarterback Derek Anderson and the Panthers offense off the field, losing the time of possession, 35:12 to 24:48, and the Bucs offense sputtered and was held scoreless until the fourth quarter. Because of the losing effort there were plenty of disappointing Buccaneers. Here are the ones that stood out.
QB Josh McCown
McCown completed just 3-of-8 passes for a paltry 36 yards in the first half and threw an ill-timed interception to Panthers cornerback Antoine Cason as he was almost sacked. The ball was tipped by rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and was picked off by Cason. The Bucs offense couldn’t sustain any drives in the first half as the Panthers controlled the clock, 22:45 to 7:15 and took a 10-0 lead. Then McCown threw an ill-advised pass in the third quarter intended for Mike Evans after the ball slipped out of his hands and it was thrown right to safety Roman Harper. McCown did rally the team in the fourth quarter with two touchdown passes, but it was too little, too late for Tampa Bay. McCown finished the game completing 22-of-35 passes for 183 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and a QB rating of 71.5. He also had three carries for 27 yards (9.0 avg.). McCown’s two interceptions led to two Panthers touchdowns on Sunday.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line was manhandled upfront by Carolina, which pressured QB Josh McCown throughout the game and sacked him three times and hit him twice. Both of McCown’s sacks came when he was in distress. The line, which lost heralded left guard Logan Mankins to a knee injury in the second quarter, couldn’t open any holes for running back Doug Martin. Take away a 54-yard run by fullback Jorvorskie Lane and 27 yards by a scrambling McCown, and the Bucs rushed for 21 yards on 13 carries (1.6 avg.). To the unit’s credit, the pass protection improved by the fourth quarter, but the Bucs offensive line could never really get the running game going.
RB Doug Martin
Martin was poor in pass protection, nearly surrendering a sack to Charles Johnson, and then allowing a sack by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly later on the same drive. Although the offensive line stunk in terms of opening up holes, Martin didn’t do anything to create on his own, rushing nine times for nine yards (1.0 avg.) against Carolina. Martin did have one catch for seven yards, but also had a drop in a truly forgettable opening day performance.
RB Bobby Rainey
Although Rainey caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that pulled the Bucs to within three points, 17-14, he coughed up the ball on the next series in Tampa Bay territory. That turnover ended the Bucs’ comeback hopes with the score 17-14 with less than two minutes remaining, and also led to Carolina’s final field goal. Rainey was ineffective on offense, catching two passes for eight yards and rushing four times for 12 yards.
FS Dashon Goldson
Like most Bucs defenders, Goldson was typically a step away in pass coverage against Carolina as Panthers fill-in quarterback Derek Anderson, who completed 24-of-34 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns. In fact, Anderson didn’t have a single pass defensed outside of a ball that should have been intercepted by Goldson just outside of the Panthers’ red zone. Goldson stepped in front of tight end Greg Olsen, who had eight catches for 83 yards (10.4 avg.), and would have had a pick-six that would have put the Bucs in the lead with less than two minutes left in regulation. In his post-game press conference, Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said the team needed Goldson to make that play.
WR Vincent Jackson
Jackson finished the game with four catches for 36 yards (9.0 avg.), but had two drops on Tampa Bay’s initial offensive drive, which ended in a three-and-out. The Buccaneers needed him to have a bigger presence on opening day against a stout Panthers defense than he did. In order for Tampa Bay’s offense to be successful, Jackson needs to rack up 100 receiving yards per week.
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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