SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos strips the ball from Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter of Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. Malik Jackson #97 of the Denver Broncos (not pictured) recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Denver’s 24-10 victory over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 will be closely studied by Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers have to face the Panthers twice a year and have been swept by Cam Newton and Co. in each of the past three years. The defensive slugfest on Super Bowl Sunday presented the Bucs with five lessons to be learned by Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht, head coach Dirk Koetter and franchise quarterback Jameis Winston heading into the 2016 season.
Panthers DE Kony Ealy sacks Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
1. The Need For Premier Pass Rushers
It’s no coincidence that the two top sackers in the Super Bowl – Carolina’s Kony Ealy, who had three sacks and an interception, and Denver’s Von Miller, who was the game’s MVP with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles – were early-round picks. Miller, a four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker with 60 career sacks and 16 forced fumbles, was selected second overall behind Newton in the 2011 NFL Draft. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, Miller showed that you don’t have to be big in order to play big in the biggest game of the season – you just have to be fast and strong.
It’s worth noting that the outside rush ‘backer playing opposite Miller, DeMarcus Ware, was a first-round pick by Dallas in 2005 and has 134.5 sacks in the regular season. He had two sacks in the Super Bowl.
Ealy, who was Carolina’s second-round pick in 2014, is coming into his own and will use his appearance in Super Bowl 50 to springboard a career in which he has nine sacks and four forced fumbles. Ealy, a brute of a man at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, shows that you don’t have to spend a first-round pick on a premium pass rusher. They can be found in the second round, too.
The Bucs have been trying to get by with the likes of some undrafted free agents at the defensive end position with Jacquies Smith, Howard Jones and George Johnson since Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers – Tampa Bay’s first- and second-round picks in 2011 – didn’t pan out. It’s time for the Bucs to invest some high draft picks in some dangerous edge rushers, and that’s something Licht knew even before watching Miller and Ealy dominate the Super Bowl.
The 2016 NFL Draft has plenty of pass rushers, so don’t be surprised if the Bucs double up on defensive ends. PewterReport.com currently has Tampa Bay picking Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence in the first round and Boise State defensive end Kamalei Correa in the third round of its 2016 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft.
2. The Importance Of Two Stud Offensive Tackles
One of the reasons why Miller and Ealy were the stars of Super Bowl 50 was because they were taking advantage of the sub-par play of the starting offensive tackles. Carolina started Michael Oher, Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2009, at left tackle, but Oher hasn’t lived up to his pre-draft hype and is on his third team in three years.
At right tackle, Mike Remmers was an undrafted free agent originally signed by Denver in 2012 and he’s spent time on the practice squads of Tampa Bay (2012-13) and St. Louis (2014) and the rosters of San Diego (2013), Minnesota (2013) and Carolina (2014-15). It’s hard to win a Super Bowl with journeymen offensive tackles and Carolina found that out the hard way as Cam Newton was sacked six times.
Denver’s offensive tackles weren’t much better, although left tackle Ryan Harris, who gave up one sack to Ealy, was originally a backup. Harris was Denver’s third-round pick in 2007, but was cut in 2010 and spent time with Philadelphia, Houston and Kansas City before returning to Denver in May after Pro Bowler Ryan Clady tore his ACL in OTAs. Second-round draft pick Ty Sambrailo was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury during the season, which prompted Harris’ rise up the depth chart.
Right tackle Michael Schofield, a third-round pick in 2014 with just 13 career starts in the regular season, gave up two sacks to Ealy. He’s average at best. Peyton Manning was sacked a total of five times by Carolina with four of them coming off the edge, and both the Broncos and the Panthers would be wise to invest in an offensive tackle in the early rounds in 2016.
After seeing the Denver and Carolina struggle mightily to protect the passer, Tampa Bay is justified in grabbing a premier starting-caliber offensive tackle like Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley in the first round if there isn’t a defensive end worth the No. 9 overall pick, or if Stanley is the highest-rated player on the board at that time. Pairing Donovan Smith, last year’s second-round pick, together with Stanley, who is generally regarded as the second-best offensive tackle in the draft behind Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil, could bolster Winston’s pass protection for years to come.
Bucs RB Charles Sims – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
3. The Need For A Potent, Explosive Offense
The phrase “defense wins championships” certainly applies after Super Bowl 50, as Denver’s defense was slightly better than Carolina’s in the Broncos’ 24-10 victory. Super Bowl 50 was a defensive slugfest, and sometimes even a great offense can’t overcome the play of a stellar defense. Denver found that out the hard way in 2013 when Seattle’s defense dominated in Super Bowl XLVIII in a 43-8 victory over the Broncos, who had a high-powered offense.
The New York Giants dominant defense helped upset the previously undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIII in 2007. Tampa Bay’s defense dismantled Oakland’s prolific offense in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002. It’s hard to stop a great defense in the Super Bowl when it’s rolling, but without a great offense with multiple weapons a team doesn’t stand a chance.
On paper, the Broncos secondary led by Pro Bowl cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, nickel cornerback Bradley Roby and Pro Bowl alternate safety T.J. Ward, clearly outclassed the Panthers’ weapons in the passing game, including Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, Ginn, Jr., Funchess and Brown. Denver linebackers Miller, Ware and Danny Trevathan, who led the team with eight tackles and had a fumble recovery, were also better than running backs Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. The Panthers recorded over 300 yards of total offense, but scored just 10 points. They simply didn’t have enough explosive weapons to match up against the Broncos star-studded defense.
The Bucs, who are now led by an offensive-minded coach in Koetter, have heavily invested in their offense over the past two years and it’s paying dividends as the team eclipsed the 6,000-yard mark for the first time in franchise history in 2015. Running back Doug Martin, whom the team is targeting for a contract extension this offseason, was the second-leading rusher in the NFL. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2014, has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a second-rounder in 2014, and Cameron Brate combined to catch seven touchdowns last year, and running back Charles Sims, a third-round selection in 2014, had 1,000 total yards last year and caught four touchdown passes. Licht will need to find another receiver capable of posting 1,000 yards to play opposite Evans in order for the Bucs offense to truly reach an explosive level for years to come – in addition to re-signing Martin.
4. The Need For Big, Physical Cornerbacks
Newton’s receivers let him down for most of the night as none of his weapons in the passing game posted 100 yards or scored a touchdown. Corey “Philly” Brown led the way with four catches for 80 yards until a concussion in the second half knocked him out of the game. Ted Ginn, Jr. finished the Super Bowl with four catches for 74 yards, but was shut out in the first half.
For perhaps the first time all season, the Panthers sorely missed injured wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina’s first-round pick in 2014. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Benjamin tore his ACL during the offseason and spent his second year in the league on injured reserve. But he’ll be back to face the Bucs and the rest of the NFL in 2016.
Along with him will be Devin Funchess, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound receiver, who was drafted in the second round this year. Funchess, who had two catches for 40 yards against the Broncos, and Benjamin represent the future at the wide receiver position in Carolina, as Ginn, Jr. turns 31 in April and Jericho Cotchery will be 33 in June.
The NFC South title will continue to go through Carolina for the foreseeable future with the team that Ron Rivera has built, so the Bucs will need some big cornerbacks to match up against Benjamin and Funchess twice a year. Tampa Bay may already have one in 6-foot-2 cornerback Johnthan Banks, who was in Lovie Smith’s doghouse at times last year, but will get a second chance under new defensive coordinator Mike Smith. The Bucs will need to add another big cornerback or two in free agency or the draft. PewterReport.com currently has Houston’s 6-foot-1 cornerback William Jackson III going to Tampa Bay in the second round of its 2016 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft.
Panthers QB Cam Newton – Photo by: Getty Images
5. The Need For Confidence, Not Cockiness
Perhaps the greatest lesson the Bucs can learn from the Panthers’ loss in Super Bowl 50 is to not get too cocky once the wins start rolling in. The undefeated Patriots came into Super Bowl XLIII undefeated and heard for two weeks how they were one win away from being the greatest team in NFL history before they were upset by the Giants. Prior to Sunday, the big question was how Denver could possibly stop Newton, the NFL’s MVP, after he accounted for 50 touchdowns during the regular season.
Newton’s end zone celebrations and cockiness didn’t win him many fans outside of those in Carolina, and the fact that the entire Panthers teams dabbed in their Super Bowl portrait now looks kind of ridiculous given the fact that Denver’s defense sacked Newton six times, forced him to commit three turnovers and held him out of the end zone.
Newton was so shocked and surprised that the Panthers not only didn’t win Super Bowl 50, but didn’t destroy Denver the way they did Seattle and Arizona in the process after going 17-1 leading up to Sunday that he stormed out of the post-game press conference. The immature Newton didn’t handle losing with class and he deserves all of the critics piling on. What a sore loser.
Contrast that to how Winston handled losing his only college game – a 59-20 drubbing at the hands of Oregon in the first round of the NCAA playoffs – and how he addressed the media after all 10 of Tampa Bays’ losses in 2015 as a rookie. Winston never backed down and never left the podium early, thoughtfully answering every question. Winston, who is now the Bucs’ undisputed leader, appears to be more mature than Newton, who is over four years older.
Winston is smart enough to learn from the Panthers’ defeat and will make sure he and his teammates are confident when they take the field in 2016 – but not overconfident. There won’t be any dabbing in Tampa Bay next year – and perhaps not in Carolina, either, after the Panthers’ lousy showing in Super Bowl 50.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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
Thanks Scott – I think I took away a different lesson…play to your strengths! Denver had 2 amazing pass rushers and so they created a defense designed to showcase those guys (and put everyone else in a position to “do their job” as the saying goes)…and it made everyone else look pretty good too (I am not sold that their secondary is the bee’s knees on its own). By contrast, we created a defense designed around a great pass rush, but did it with two DEs that were never going to deliver that…and it made everyone else look like a shambles (even LvD was getting a lot of flack over the first half of the season).
I think a really awesome looking defense is one with 2 great pass rushers – as Denver proved – but if you don’t have 2 great pass rushers, there can be other defenses that work too….one of which is called “a great offense”…needless to say, I am on-board with drafting a big-time LT at #9.
Scott all valid points and as you got deep in the playoffs the best D lines won all the games . I think the most important thing is to realize that free agency builds Super Bowl Winning Teams………. Free Agency is what builds your team………. Teams must get some stars out of their previous 5 year drafts and resign one or two drafted stars but appx 65 percent of Super Bowl rosters are comprised of free agents………. Take a look at Denvers starters that are free agents , the difference is Elway and his staff signed the right free agents and the staff got the most out of them. Your Staff is as important as the are the free agents you sign!!!
1. Premier pass rushers are indeed awesome and I hope we get one from somewhere, but I tend to agree with EastEndBoy that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. We have to use whoever is the best player available in the draft to win games by putting that player in the best position to be successful and “play to their strengths”. I don’t see any premier pass rushers in this draft class. In fact, I don’t see any premier players in this draft class. However, I do think there is good depth at certain positions in this draft class, such as DE, DT, OT, CB and LB. If a pass rusher is the best player available when we’re on the clock then fine, take him, but I’m not expecting him to turn into Miller or Ware, but maybe Ealy. Maybe Ogbah or Spence could be our Ealy, which is far better than anybody else we have at DE.
2. Again, there are no stud OT’s in this draft class, just good ones. Stanley is not one of them. I don’t care where he’s rated, more than any other position OT’s that have been rated highly and been drafted the first two rounds have gone on to disappoint the past 6 years or so. That shouldn’t deter us from taking one with a high draft pick, but it should deter us from taking an OT just because he’s highly rated. Some guys are just highly rated and recruited out of high school and some scouts just can’t forget about that reputation and just go off the recent college video.
3. This one makes no sense. Denver just generated the lowest offensive output in Super Bowl history and won. Denver didn’t perform well for most of the regular season and postseason. The lesson learned (if you’re only taking lessons from this Super Bowl) is that defense wins championships as you said in the opening line. If you look at all Super Bowls, if the top rated defense is playing they’ve won 10 out of 12 times. The same can’t be said about the top rated offense.
4. Agile and smart trumps big and physical. Banks is an example of that. Ideally you want agile, smart, instinctive, big and physical but those are so rare you generally have to skip a couple of those when drafting someone. Size should be the first thing we look past. Nothing wrong with a CB who is between 5’10” and 6’0″. Champ Bailey, Revis and Barber were all within that range. Josh Norman, Jason Verrett and Janoris Jenkins are also in that range.
5. Neither confidence or cockiness wins games. The Panthers had both going into the Super Bowl. Talent and preparation wins games. The Panthers lost due to errant passes, turnovers, bad calls and poor O-line play. Confidence didn’t help them overcome any of that.
Right on point with every observation, Scott. The NFL is an offense-minded game today, but the Broncos made the old saying “defense wins championships” look truer than ever. I think you need both! I’m sure the new administration took notes.
Great article and insight. I agree. Cam is an immature jackass. Can’t stand him or that team. You are correct no matter how good our offense gets its still about defense. We are in need of elite pass rushers and another CB or 2. Winston has shown better maturity and leadership than Cam. Losing and hard times brings out ones true character. Easy to smile and be a leader when it’s all going your way.
Yep, Cam is a punk, thief, and not only has no class, but lacks character. I have always hated that team and even more so since Cam joined them. Winston is light years above him when it come to character. So no more dabs, and superman acts. His feet are made of clay (or kryptonite).
Bigger Jackass? Cam or Talib? Man, I hate watching Talib play. Whether he was suiting up as a patriot or now as a bronco. What a cheap shot artist. The right team won(with some help from a few bad calls/non calls), but gosh, I really hate watching Talib win!
I think as the 2016 Draft and Free agents come on board. See what Bucs get to improve their team. I believe that Tampa could make be stribes on the personnel they get through the draft as well as other means.Come on Bucs show the rest of the league they are better in 2016 then ever before.
I was always taught in sports to be humble and gracious in a win but that was a long time ago.
In short, coaches used to say “whatever makes u glad will also make u sad.”
I’m not sure they teach that nowadays in sports and I know the kids sure don’t see it from many pros to emulate it by.
For those reason I was elated to see Cam Newton get slapped around by the Broncos and I dare say most of the nation outside of North Carolina was as well.
Of course Newton reverted to his old pouting behavior and rudely walked out of one press conference.
But I haven’t heard to much media criticism coming his way. Instead, I have heard a lot of excuses for it.
Hey, I understand being angry after a game, and wouldn’t want a player who wasn’t. I even understand about walking out of a press conference.
But if you are going to leave, a simple, “Guys, I’m sorry. I’m just to upset to talk about the game anymore. I’m sorry, but I have to leave now.”
To just get up and leave is just plain rude and speaks volumes about the real Cam Newton.
I have never bought into this giving the kids TD footballs at the game. I think he does that because he knows the camera is on him and he wants to be seen as a great guy when he really is just a preening narcissistic guy who wants the camera on him.
Do you see even one QB in the league behave the way he does, Brady has won four SB’s and you don’t see him dabbing on the sideline or on the field.
Hell, Tim Tebow used to take all sorts of criticism for “T-Bowing,” in acknowledging “God” was responsible for all his talents and good fortune.
I have always believed you learn more about a players character when he is losing or having a bad day at the office.
Well we learned a lot about Newton’s on Sunday.
We saw a QB choke with two fumbles (one which he made a business decision not to go after) an interception and a delay of game penalty.
Then he started to whine like a little child when he thought he got hit late in the end zone after he had broken out of the pocket.
At the end, to further put icing on the narcissistic cake he has made for himself, he walks out of a press conference.
Yup, same old Cam. When the going gets tough, he just gets up and leaves.
drdneast you nailed it with “preening narcissist”. I said to some friends last week that I thought the giving the ball away to kids was his agents idea.
I personally think that Winston is ahead of Cam when comparing them as rookies. I see no reason why Jameis couldn’t be better than Cam by his fifth year in the league. What Carolina has done is draft impressively over a period of time where the Bucs have not. But, now with Meathead running the show, I hope that the overall talent of the team starts to rise. When that happens AND you have a franchise QB, the Bucs will have a good chance on any given Sunday in the next few years to win any game on the schedule including Carolina. QB-check, GM-check, Coach-let’s see how Koetter pans out?
Sorry, but I don’t think Talib had a great game. Two personal foul and an off sides penalty (actually I think the first one was a bad call) plus he was beaten a few times doesn’t even constitute a good game.
You are right, of course, in the fact the Bucs need a much better pass rush and have for about 10 years now.
It hasn’t been from a lack of trying but bad selections by Jon Gruden/Bruce Allen, Mark Dominick/Raheem Morris have ut the Bucs behind the eight ball in that department.
Actually I think Adrian Clayborn would have turned out to be a good defensive end (not great) but two knee surgeries have made him into a barely adequate DT.
The guy busts his heart out trying but it just isn’t there.
76Buc, I just heard the reason he walked out of the presser was because he could overhear a Broncos player saying the game plan was to make Cam throw the ball because they knew he couldn’t beat them.
Well what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Cam.
Just like your defender say with all your “look at me” antics, if they don’t like it. stop them.
Well the Broncos did. So if you didn’t think all of your game antics were going to come back at you, you should have played an MVP game and you wouldn’t be hearing about it afterwards.
Cam seems to forget that “Superman” has green Krytonite and Lex Luthor as his enemy.
On Sunday, Newton met a whole pack of Lex Luthor’s.
By the way, Superman doesn’t whine when he gets hit, either.
“E” you are absolutely correct. until the “meathead” got here, we were lucky to hit on our No. 1 picks, let alone any rounds afterwards.
The Panthers have done a great job of drafting the last five to six years.
In summation, ss Wade Phillips tweeted after the game, “Sometimes a little dab will do you. and sometimes a little dab will undo you.”
Glad to see all the morons bought into the Carolina hype, I made a couple hundred bucks on that game with the point spread.
Hey drdneast. I owed you an apology. It’s not relevant to this thread but I wanted to make sure you read my response on the ticket increase thread.
Denver plays a 3-4 which usually gives the NFC South problems. Can’t argue with Pinkstob or Dreadnest about our 9th spot; we should take the BPA or trade down. I wouldn’t mind another big DT to push the opponents offense backwards. Rest assure Carolina knows they need OL in the early rounds. There is no quit in Jameis and it’s contagious. Finally, I don’t think Denver has overpaid for most of their players so I hope we don’t give the chicken coop away to Martin and some Free Agents as there will be a tomorrow. Go Bucs!
Exactly Horse. It takes time and good drafts to make a great team. Lets not get foolish with the cap money. Defense is the key now.
Great points SR. I made a few of the same points in the comment section of the recent Doug Martin contract article on the site. Offseason checklist must include getting Mike Smith a stud DE and Jameis one more starting caliber RT and this team could be on its way to competing with anybody.
“A little dab will do you…or undo you” I wish I’d thought of that one. But it warrants explanation for the youthful posters. “A little dab will do you” was a marketing slogan for a “hair lube” product called Brylcream back in the 50’s and 60’s when being a “greaser” (slicked down hair) was all the rage. I’m sure 76Buc, Horse and George Hicks all used a “dab” a time or two.
The best part of the Super Bowl was seeing Cam Poutin rolling on the ground having a temper tantrum on the sidelines. Now tell me, would Super Bowl losing QB’s like Jim Kelly, Russel Wilson, Tom Brady, Fran Tarkenton or my person favorite, Rich Gannon acted like that?
Some used Wildroot Cream Oil, Charlie….errr scubog. Taken right from the commercial “Infused with lanolin, Wildroot Cream Oil keeps hair slick and oh so shiny throughout the day. Wildroot has a thinner consistency than the other hair products. It feels almost like sunscreen lotion. Consequently, it doesn’t feel as heavy on the head as a product like Brylcreem does”.
Ha! Ha! Just dating myself! lol.
Sorry I forgot to mention you macabee. I knew you were in the “Old Sage in the Corner” group of posters.
Good article Scott. The number one thing I took from the SB was that the Bucs couldn’t have possibly competed with either of those two teams. And the Bucs have a good bit of improving to do before they could. But of course that’s what this article is all about. It’s not a mystery that you need a good defense to compete. It’s also not a bad idea to have an explosive offense. I’m sure that’s been the plan all through this last decade plus of “rebuilding” by the Bucs. But what has been the real problem in getting there? It’s not been out of a lack of trying. So what hasn’t worked? We’ve drafted DL and edge rushers high in past drafts. But most have not panned out. We’ve even drafted DB’s high in past drafts and had less than Pro Bowl results. I don’t know the answer but has it been bad talent evaluation or bad coaching or both? I’ve seen some really positive signs from the front office in the past few drafts to give me good vibes about the talent evaluation part. And the recent developments (and info from this site) have led me to believe that poor coaching has been a big problem. An example of what I’m getting at is Banks. Is he a draft bust or was he coached poorly? But where do we go from here to get to that playoff caliber offense and defense? I hope to see continued good drafting and also marked improvement in systems that maximize the talent actually present on this team. It hasn’t seemed to work to have a system and force players to fit into it. Let’s try getting the BPA and find a way to maximize their strengths.
Adding Greg Hardy/Mario Williams, Fairley and Janoris Jenkins would help a lot heading into the draft. That would eliminate “need” at certain positions and truly allow us to draft BPA to bolster depth or add talent to push the vets for playing time.
Yes I did TwistedWires but no apologies were needed. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion no matter how much others may think it is wrong or I may disagree with it.
That is what really makes this country so great.
Jim Kelly was the consummate pro as were all the others. They won with class and lost with class.
But to paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School,” it’s impossible to do for Newton because he has, “no class.”
It’s not something his dad could buy him after he was finished pimping him to Auburn.
show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser!!! guess he should’ve been laughing with the opposing team like some of the bucs players after every freaking loss? LOL the dude smiled, shook manning’s hand & congratulated him after the game… manning lost to drew brees and stormed off the field hardly anyone said a peep… but because he was tired of talking to the media he’s a sore loser? GTFOH!
Actually , manning caught all kinds of hell for not shaking hands. He also went into the saints locker room afterwards and congratulated all of them after apologizing. There is a HUGE difference with what Cam did. He implodes every time his team loses. The way he rolled around like a 5 year old at the end of the game . He and manning aren’t even in the same sentence as far as class goes.
There’s a big difference in being disappointed beyond belief, being angry with oneself and the way Cam Newton acted on the sidelines. There was no excuse for Peyton Manning’s behavior when he lost to Drew Brees either but it paled in comparison to Newton’s sideline display.
There is no doubt in my mind that Cam Newton could have handled his end of game differently. Not giving Cam a pass, but I didn’t see anything about Cam that I hadn’t seen before and was not surprised when I saw it.
He always goes to the bench, puts his hoodie on and sulks when he loses. Now fans will be fans, but if our new QB gets us to the SB, loses and reacts the same way, I’m giving him a pass. Because that’s the way it works – your QB is terrible, my QB will be just fine! Can’t wait to be confronted with the opportunity – being in the SB no matter how the interview goes. lol.
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