Bucs 13 Panthers 31 - the game report
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw their season-opening losing streak stretch to seven games on Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium, this time in front of a national audience. Behind another efficient performance by QB Cam Newton, the visiting Carolina Panthers took a 31-13 decision in the prime-time NFC South matchup on the NFL Network. The loss dropped Tampa Bay to 0-7 in 2013 while the Panthers improved to 4-3, moving above .500 for the first time since 2008.
Tampa Bay’s defense sacked Newton three times and mostly avoided the big play, but it was on the field for too long thanks to an inconsistent offense and the Panthers’ ability to convert on five of 12 third-down tries. Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon, making his fourth career start, once again showed poise and an underrated ability to escape pressure, but he didn’t throw his only touchdown pass, a 10-yarder to fellow rookie Tim Wright, until three minutes were left in the game.
“Carolina played tough defense,” said Wright. “They rallied around getting to the ball and getting to the quarterback. We just had to execute a little better, holding our blocks a little longer, catching the balls that we need to catch. There was a penalty here and there. But hats off to them; they did a good job.”
Glennon finished with 275 yards on 30-of-51 passing, and he was not intercepted. Meanwhile, a Tampa Bay rushing attack that was minus lead back Doug Martin produced just 48 yards in support of Glennon, in part because the Bucs were playing catch-up for most of the night. “He’s a tough quarterback,” said Wright. “I tip my hat to him for standing in there and fighting and still delivering the ball. He was still trusting his reads, and you can’t ask a quarterback to do more than that.”
Rookie RB Mike James started in place of Martin and ran hard, gaining 39 yards on 10 carries and adding four catches for 25 yards. Unfortunately, the Panthers’ rapidly-growing lead mostly took James out of the attack. James has two promising performances in a row but wasn’t in a position to enjoy his first NFL start after the game. He and the offense could have kept the game close early but settled for field goals early while Carolina was finding the end zone.
“We just weren’t finishing drives,” said James. “Point-blank, period, we’ve just got to get that done. That’s something that we’re looking to get better at in the future, and we’ll get better tomorrow. I think it went okay [for me]. I did some things to help out, but not enough to win. I’m a competitor. No good day is a good day without a competitor.”
The first half was relatively even in a lot of ways, but the Panthers took the 14-6 lead into intermission because they were able to finish their scoring drives in the end zone. Carolina scored first on a one-yard touchdown pass from Newton to TE Greg Olsen, after which the Bucs responded with a 51-yard field goal drive. Carolina came right back with an 80-yard TD march ending in RB DeAngelo Williams’ 12-yard run, and the Bucs once again responded with a Rian Lindell field goal, this one a 48-yarder. Carolina, the NFL’s third-best team at converting third downs, was good on five of seven tries in the first half while the Bucs converted only two of six, in part because two bad snaps on third downs led to fumbles that Glennon had to fall on to avoid a turnover.
Carolina widened its lead in the third quarter with a 53-yard drive that was driven more by Newton’s legs than his arms. The supremely mobile quarterback ran five times on the drive, ending with his own six-yard TD scramble around right end, making it 21-6 in the visitors’ favor. A fumbled punt by WR Eric Page led to Carolina’s fourth TD, a three-yard catch by RB Mike Tolbert. The Panthers, who came in with the league’s seventh-ranked rushing attack, gained 129 yards in the game and 4.8 yards per carry.
LB Lavonte David led the Buccaneers’ defense with 12 tackles, his fifth sack of the season, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hit. The Bucs held Carolina to 327 yards of offense but did not force a turnover. In addition, the Bucs’ defense was fighting against poor field position all night, as Carolina had an average drive start of its own 35 yard line while the Bucs started at an average of their own 19.The Bucs got the ball first but went three-and-out to start the game despite a very nice run by James on his first handoff, as he side-stepped a tackle to get four yards. Glennon was actually on the money with his third-and-four throw to Jackson, but Jackson couldn’t haul it in and the Bucs had to punt.
The Panthers’ first series got off to a rough start when RB Mike Tolbert was flagged for a face-mask penalty against S Mark Barron, but the Bucs gave it back on CB Darrelle Revis’ pass interference on the next play. Newton found Smith on third-and-nine for a 21-yard gain to get the ball into Buccaneer territory, and a third-and-one sneak by Newton from the Bucs’ 35 moved the chains again. A sack by David on a well-timed blitz pushed Carolina back 12 yards, but Newton’s scramble around left end converted a third-and-12 and made it first-and-10 at the Bucs’ 19. On third-and-goal from the one, Newton seemed to be about to go down in a sack but he threw almost without looking to Olsen, who was wide open in the left side of the end zone for the game’s opening score.
The Bucs were quickly in a third-and-10 hole on their next possession but Glennon impressively escaped a sack and Jackson cut off his route and came back to catch a 29-yard pass on the right sideline. On the next play, James got behind LB Luke Kuechly and hauled in a short pass that he turned into a 20-yard gain to the Panthers’ 31. S Thomas Davis made a marvelous play to break up a potential big play to TE Tom Crabtree moments later and the Bucs settled for Lindell’s 47-yard field goal.
A 22-yard run by Tolbert got the Panthers’ next drive off to a good start, bringing the first quarter to an end with the ball at Carolina’s 46. A 35-yard catch-and-run by WR Ted Ginn Jr. on third-and-three got the ball to the Bucs 12 and RB DeAngelo Williams took it in from there to make the score 14-3 in the visitors’ favor. Nice runs by James (15 yards) and Leonard (seven) got the ball to the Bucs’ 34, but they faced a third-and-three at that point. Glennon never got a chance to convert the third down as Ted Larsen’s low snap went through his hands and he had to recover the ball for a loss of 10. The Bucs appeared to recover a Ginn fumble on the ensuing punt but the play was reviewed and it was ruled that Ginn was down before he lost the ball.
Ginn dropped what appeared to be a sure touchdown on a first-down bomb to start the next drive, and Revis broke up a third-down pass intended for Smith to force Carolina’s first punt of the game. The Bucs started at their own 27 and fell into a third-and-seven hole, but a nice comeback route by WR Tiquan Underwood resulted in a 16-yard gain and a new set of downs. A 12-yard catch by Mike Williams and runs of seven and four yards by James produced another first down at Carolina’s 31, but the Bucs soon faced a third-and-five. Yet another low snap prevented the Bucs from converting, as Glennon had to fall on his fumbled exchange and the Bucs settled for Lindell’s 48-yard field goal.
Two 17-yard catches by Ginn put the ball at the Bucs’ 47 as the two-minute warning arrived. A near-interception by Barron and a seven-yard sack by blitzing CB Michael Adams put Carolina back on their side of the field, and facing a third-and-17. A pass to Brandon LaFell got 13 yards but the Panthers elected to punt from the Bucs’ 41 with 59 seconds to play. The punt pushed the Bucs back to their own 10, but a leaping 24-yard catch by Underwood got the ball out to the 40 and prompted Tampa Bay to use its last timeout with 26 seconds left in the half. However, a Greg Hardy sack on the next play kept the drive from gaining any traction.
The Panthers got the ball first to start the second half but had to punt it away after David made consecutive big plays, combining with DE Adrian Clayborn for a backfield stop of Newton and then fighting off an open-field block to drop RB Kenjon Barner for a gain of just two on a third-and-12 middle screen.
The Bucs’ offense was unable to move the ball, however, and the ensuing punt ended up with the ball at Carolina’s 47. A 16-yard catch by Olsen and a wild scramble by Newton got the ball to the Bucs’ 34 and set up a third-and-two. The Panthers let Newton keep it on a sneak but he was stopped after a gain of one by David. The Panthers brought in a jumbo crew to go for it on fourth-and-one and Tolbert was able to reach across the line to get the first down. A designed run by Newton two plays later took it down to the Bucs’ eight and the QB took it in himself moments later on a six-yard run.
Rookie WR Skye Dawson got his first career catch to get the next drive started with a nine-yard gain, but the drive ultimately failed on third-and-seven when CB Drayton Florence knocked away a pass intended for Jackson. The resulting punt was fair caught by Ginn at the Carolina 22. The two teams then traded punts, but that worked out in Carolina’s favor when Eric Page fumbled his attempt at a fair catch and the ball was recovered by Panthers S Colin Jones at the Bucs’ 29. The Panthers turned that into a touchdown, with Newton throwing a three-yard scoring pass to Tolbert on the first play of the fourth quarter.