Key 1. Knock Newton
The Buccaneers actually did in fact knock Newton around. The rookie sensation will most certainly feel the aches and pains of it come Monday morning. But the end result is it did little good as Newton did his best Rocky Balboa imitation, getting back up after each hit. You could almost see the Buccaneers defenders shake their heads like Apollo Creed thinking, what do we have to do to make this guy quit?
Tampa Bay blitzed, hit to the whistle and drove Newton’s helmet into the turf on several occasions. But most importantly, Newton kept getting up hit after hit and counter punching until he knocked the will right of out the Buccaneers. For the game, Newton was 12-of-17 for 171 yards with three TDs and also added another 65 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
Besides his athletic ability, add toughness to Newton’s resume. Go ahead and hand Newton the Rookie-of-the-Year award now and save us all the time.
Final Grade: C
Key 2. Expect The Unexpected
So the Panthers didn’t duplicate the Hollywood-scripted Little Giants play they ran last week against Houston, but the offensive imagination of Carolina Panthers’ offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was clearly evident all afternoon. Running a hybrid zone spread offense, the Panthers clearly picked on an undermanned and overmatched Buccaneers defense, rolling up 433 yards and 48 points on the day.
The option in particular gouged the Buccaneers defense all day as the outside contain was virtually non-existent. Even when Newton faked the pitch, the linebackers and safeties appeared to yell “Ole!” as if they were facing a charging bull; unable to bring the former Auburn Tiger star down.
Final Grade: F
Key 3. Another Brick In The Wall
Giving Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood a little help with two-tight end sets did little to provide protection to Freeman. Both Trueblood and Donald Penn once again didn’t have their best games with Penn giving up two sacks and Trueblood allowing several pressures in addition to two penalties.
The Buccaneers gained the majority of their paltry 55 rushing yards inside and had three rushes stuffed for a loss when running outside the tackles. While I’m not sure if the tight ends were the culprits, you would think with the additional blocking the Tamp Bay running backs would have at the very least been able to get back to the line of scrimmage.
Tampa Bay did throw from the two-tight end set with Luke Stocker and Kellen Winslow combining for nine catches for 77 yards, but for the most part it did little to stop an average Carolina pass rush and take advantage of a team who started a practice squad player just activated.
Final Grade: D-
Key 4. Run Blount Run
Well this key went out of the window early – early as in Tampa Bay’s first offensive play. LeGarrette Blount mishandled the snap on the Buccaneers first offensive play from scrimmage and didn’t see the field again until the second half.
Although the Buccaneers fell behind early, taking away six rushing attempts by Josh Freeman, the Buccaneers’ running backs had just 13 carries all day. It's not as if there wasn’t room to run as Tampa Bay averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
As stated in the Keys To Victory column, running won’t make up huge differentials in points but can keep the clock moving and could have kept the Panthers’ offense on the sidelines, maybe making the score more respectable.
Final Grade: F
Key 5. Be A Rude Holiday Guest
At times, at least early that is, the Buccaneers were able to keep things interesting and add a certain amount of suspense. At halftime the score was 20-10 with the Tampa Bay receiving the second half kickoff, and it looked as if the objective of playing bad Santa to the Panthers was still in reach.
But Josh Freeman forced a third down pass into coverage that ended up being intercepted. The Panthers turned the turnover into seven points and stretched their lead to 27-10 and any hope was gone. As usual when a negative play occurred the Buccaneers were unable to respond and from that point the rout was on.
Final Grade: F
Every week during this losing streak you think the Buccaneers may snap out of their funk and the opposing team may have a bad day and somehow Tampa Bay comes away with a win. But Sunday the trend of looking even worse than the previous week continued. The fact is, this is a bad football team. From coaching to players and across the board, the Buccaneers are in serious need of upgrades from top to bottom.
Each week a different player steps up with a critical mistake and once again we saw that veteran leadership is sorely missing.
Cook’s Prediction: Panthers 36-17
Reynold’s Prediction: Panthers 31-20
Horchy’s Prediction: Panthers 31-24