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GAME GRADES OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK In his third start as a professional Josh Johnson had the same end result as his first two starts with a loss. Johnson had a shaky performance in his first game against the Redskins. The following week he played better, despite three interceptions, against the Eagles. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Johnson's performance against the Panthers was closer to his game against Washington.
Johnson made one big pass on the Bucs first scoring drive. On third-and-11 he tossed an in-route to wide receiver Sammie Stroughter. The pass was on the money and Stroughter was put in position to cut back and get up field for 29 yards.
Johnson's next pass went for 29 yards to Antonio Bryant. On third-and-4 Johnson lofted a pass up to Bryant downfield. The franchise wide receiver did a great job of shielding the cornerback, and coming back for the ball to make the catch. Johnson also had some other nice passes on that drive. He connected with Stroughter for 10 yards on a swing pass, and wide receiver Michael Clayton for eight yards and a first down. The drive stalled when Johnson overthrew a wide-open Stroughter on third-and-9. The scoring opportunity escaped Tampa Bay as the field goal attempt was missed.
Late in the second quarter Johnson moved the ball into Carolina territory. Johnson had a nice 12-yard run and an 18-yard pass to Winslow. He threaded the pass to Winslow who was open on a slant. The drive ended with a string of bad plays: a holding penalty by the offensive line, a sack by Julius Peppers that forced a fumble that the Bucs recovered, and a nearly intercepted pass.
Johnson finished the first half 7-of-11 for 106 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He ran the ball four times for 13 yards.
The second half started out terribly for Johnson. On first down Johnson ran a play-action, and did a bad job on selling the play-action fake. The linebackers didn't bite and they dropped in coverage. Johnson floated a pass to wide receiver Michael Clayton in the flat. Linebacker Thomas Davis jumped and snatched the ball out of the air. Davis ran down the sideline and was tackled at the Bucs 13-yard line. A few plays later the Panthers went up 14-7.
The second-year signal caller seemed to be struggling with seeing the field, and did not hit open receivers downfield. Often Johnson would tuck the ball and run when he could be completing passes downfield. Johnson took a few sacks, and had two fumbles on sacks by defensive end Charles Johnson.
In the fourth quarter Josh Johnson only had two possessions. That was due to the Bucs defense scoring a touchdown, and the defense not being able to get off the field. In the beginning of the quarter the Bucs were in Carolina territory, but had to punt because of a false start penalty on fourth-and-1.
The next time that Johnson got the ball was with just seconds on the clock. The first play he took a sack fumble by Charles Johnson. Tampa Bay recovered the loose ball, but a play later the Bucs were stopped and the game was over.
Johnson finished the game 11-of-17 for 147 yards and an interception. On the ground he ran the ball eight times for 45 yards. He was indecisive, and was not able to find open receivers downfield.
GAME GRADE: D
RUNNING BACK It was another quiet game on the ground for the Bucs running backs. Tampa Bay's backfield combined for only 79 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Starting running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams got the Bucs on the scoreboard on their first possession. He rumbled up the middle for 11 yards to get to the Carolina 20-yard line. The next play Williams finished the drive. The offensive line blocked down, and opened up a cut back lane to the left for Williams. He dodged a linebacker and raced into the wide-open corner of the field for a touchdown.
Unfortunately for Williams, he did not have a lot of running room outside of those two plays in the first half. On his first three carries he had 31 yards, and on the next nine rushing attempts in the first half he totaled 14 yards. He finished the first half with a total of 12 carries for 45 yards.
After some nice gains, Williams got going again on the final play of the third quarter with a 20-yard run off the left side of the offensive line. That was Williams' final carry of the game that counted for yards.
Derrick Ward had a rough start to the game against the Panthers. Ward fumbled a pitch on a run in the second quarter, and Carolina recovered the ball at the Bucs 23 yard-line. The veteran running back was fortunate that the Panthers fumbled the ball back to Tampa Bay on the Bucs three-yard line. Ward got a carry on the Bucs next possession and ran it for two yards. After that Ward wasn't heard from the rest of the game. He finished with one carry for two yards, and a reception for five yards.
Graham had some nice lead blocks, and recovered a fumble by Johnson after a sack. There were also times where Graham missed some blocks, and did not win his blocks.
GAME GRADE: C-
WIDE RECEIVERS It was a frustrating day for the Buccaneers wide receivers. Throughout the game they were getting open against the Panthers secondary, but did not have the ball thrown their direction.
Stroughter came up big with a 29-yard reception on the first third down of the game for the Buccaneers. Stroughter ran an in-route and slapped cornerback Chris Gamble away. The rookie receiver turned and raced downfield for about 20 yards, before being tackled. Stroughter had a nice run on a swing pass for 10 yards on the Bucs second drive. The 2009 seventh-round pick also got open for a first down on a third-and-9 well inside of Carolina territory. The pass was overthrown, and the Bucs missed the field goal. In the second half Stroughter had one catch for 11-yards. He finished the game with three catches for 65 yards.
The last time Bryant played the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football in December of the 2008 season. He caught nine passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Bryant first got involved with 29-yard catch from Johnson on third-and-4 in the first quarter. The veteran shielded his defender and came back to the underthrown lofted pass to make the reception.
The rest of the day was extremely uneventful for Bryant. He had two receptions for 37 yards against the Panthers.
A week after dropping numerous passes against the Philadelphia Eagles, embattled wide receiver Clayton did not have an impact on Sunday's game against the Panthers. Clayton had one catch for nine yards.
There were numerous times when the wide receivers were getting open downfield, especially Bryant, but were not thrown the ball by Johnson.
GAME GRADE: B-
TIGHT ENDS Like the wide receivers, the Buccaneers tight end did not have an impactful game, but unlike the wide receivers, the tight ends made plays that hurt Tampa Bay. Starting tight end Winslow had a phenomenal game last week against the Eagles. This week the Panthers were prepared to defend the Bucs leading receiver.
The most noteworthy play for Winslow came on an 18-yard reception that was a great catch on the run at hip level. Winslow reached down and caught the ball out in front of him for the gain.
Early in the third quarter Winslow was whistled for a pass interference reception on a short catch, but his teammates bailed him out and converted the first-and-20 situation in three plays for a first down. He finished the game with three catches for 29 yards.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens got beat for a sack fumble by Johnson in the third quarter. Luckily for Stevens, he was in position to fall on the ball and recover the loose ball. The sack still led to the Bucs having to punt the ball away. Stevens did not record a catch, and did not have a pass thrown his direction.
On fourth-and-1 at the Carolina 36-yard line, tight end John Gilmore had a terrible false start penalty. That forced Tampa Bay to punt and lose an opportunity to continue their drive and get crucial points.
GAME GRADE: F
OFFENSIVE LINE The Buccaneers offensive line welcomed center Jeff Faine back into the starting lineup against the Carolina Panthers. Faine was an obvious upgrade to the offense over his backup Sean Mahan. However, there was not a huge boost to the Bucs running game and passing game with his blocking in the middle of the line. It wasn't a flawless game by Faine, as he was whistled for holding on a drive late in the second quarter. The 10-yard penalty put the Bucs in a second-and-21 situation.
It was a rough day for right tackle Jeremy Trueblood. In the first half Peppers beat Trueblood for a couple of sacks, including a forced fumble that helped end a Tampa Bay drive in Carolina territory.
In the first half the Bucs had a total of 159 yards, 99 passing and 60 yards rushing. Tampa Bay was 4-of-7 on third down, and won the time of possession 16:53 to 13:00.
Left tackle Donald Penn was whistled for two holding penalties in the second half against the Panthers. The first was declined, but the second was enforced and put the Bucs in a second-and-18 situation early in the fourth quarter. The Bucs had been in Carolina territory, but the penalty pushed them back to their side of the 50-yard line.
Defensive end Charles Johnson recorded two sacks, one of them coming against right guard Davin Joseph on the second to last play of the game. Johnson quickly shed Joseph and flew by him to get the quarterback and cause a fumble that Faine recovered.
The Bucs offensive line struggled mightily with the Carolina defensive line. They gave up a lot of pass rush, and could not consistently open up running lanes. The Buccaneers had 245 yards of total offense. They had 124 yards rushing, and 121 passing yards. Tampa Bay had 12 first downs and was 6-of-11 on third down. Tampa Bay lost the time of possession to Carolina 32:21 to 27:39.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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