Bucs 6 Panthers 27 - the game report
Scott Smith, Buccaneers.com, published 2 December 2013|
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to Bank of America Stadium Sunday hoping to extend their encouraging three-game winning streak. Instead, their run was engulfed by the continued success of the NFL’s hottest team, as the Carolina Panthers pulled away for a 27-6 win over the Buccaneers to extend their own streak to eight in a row.
Buccaneers rookie QB Mike Glennon had another efficient outing, completing 14 of 21 passes for 180 yards, but lost his grip on the football on what proved to be the game’s turning point. After a 60-yard pass to Vincent Jackson down to Carolina’s four-yard line, Glennon tried to make a scrambling throw on third-and-goal but had the ball simply slip out of his hand. Instead of taking a second-quarter lead in the game, the Buccaneers saw Carolina score the next 10 points to take a 17-6 lead into halftime.
Glennon also threw just his second interception in the Bucs’ last six games when he tried to force a deep pass to Jackson on the first drive of the second half. He was under intense pressure throughout the game, particularly in the second half, and was eventually sacked five times.
The Buccaneers and Panthers came into the game tied for fourth in the NFL in turnover ratio, with matching 10 marks. Each defense secured two takeaways on the day, but the Buccaneers’ turnovers were more costly, leading to 10 Carolina points and twice killing some building momentum for the visiting team. Glennon’s interception in the second half came on an ill-advised attempt to cash in on a second-and-one situation with a deep shot, as he threw into triple coverage. “That one came out a little bad,” said Glennon. “It was not the smartest decision. I should have just thrown it away in that situation.”
In addition to the uncharacteristic turnovers, the Buccaneers also converted on just one of 10 third-down attempts and were hurt on defense by a string of broken tackles. “Obviously we made too many mistakes, as coaches and as players, to have an opportunity to win a game against a good football team in Carolina,” said Tampa Bay Head Coach Greg Schiano. “Early in the game we had plenty of opportunities to make it a football game and we didn’t capitalize on them. Again, that’s coaches and players. This was a team loss, top to bottom, starting with me. My hat’s off to Carolina – they had something to do with it, for sure. Offensively, we had trouble handling their front.”
Carolina’s own dual-threat quarterback, Cam Newton, capped that 10-point swing with a fourth-and-one leap just over the goal line 30 seconds before halftime. For the second time in two 2013 meetings, the Buccaneers had difficulty containing Newton in the pocket, as the Panther passer led all players with 68 rushing yards. His 56-yard scramble in the first quarter – the second longest run by a quarterback ever against Tampa Bay, after a 72-yard touchdown by Tennessee’s Steve McNair in 1998 – set up the game’s first touchdown, a 16-yard Brandon LaFell reception.
Other than Newton, neither team had much success running the football in the first half against two of the NFL’s best rush defenses. Tampa Bay RB Bobby Rainey had a handful of productive runs up the middle but finished with just 63 yards, part of a 66-yard performance by the Bucs’ rushing attack. The Panthers were playing without usual starting RB DeAngelo Williams but were able to get the ground game going in the second half, finishing with 163 yards. That 100-yard difference in the rushing attacks was not part of the Bucs’ formula for success coming into the game, and it was the main reason the home team pulled away after halftime. The Buccaneers also had difficulty finishing their scoring drives in the first half, when the game was still very much within reach.
“They’re one of the best defenses in the league and they make it hard to score touchdowns,” said Glennon. “That was the one thing that we made a point of emphasis of all week, that we needed touchdowns, not field goals, and when we got down there we didn’t come away with touchdowns. Their front seven is really good and we knew it was going to be tough to run the ball but we wanted to establish a running game. We kind of got it going in the second half, but at that point it was a little too late as we couldn’t really run the ball in that situation, with their points and the time left.”
Tampa Bay actually scored first, driving 59 yards on eight plays to set up Rian Lindell’s 27-yard field goal on its first possession. Completions of 16 and 23 yards to WR Tiquan Underwood powered the drive; Underwood, who recorded his first career 100-yard game a week earlier in Detroit, finished with 51 yards on three receptions. After LaFell’s touchdown, the Bucs turned Keith Tandy’s midfield interception into another Lindell field goal, this one a season-long 53-yarder that grazed the right upright.
Carolina scored first in the second half, turning Mike Mitchell’s interception into a 78-yard drive that ended in Ginn’s 36-yard touchdown catch. The Bucs were unable to dig out of that 24-6 hole, particularly after their answering drive reached Carolina’s 30 only to end in a missed 48-yard field goal attempt by Lindell. Mark Barron led the Buccaneers’ defense with 10 tackles, while LB Lavonte David added nine stops, a tackle for loss, an interception and a pass defensed. However, Carolina ended the day with a 426-206 edge in total yards and put up 20 first downs to the Buccaneers’ 10.
The last time the Buccaneers and Panthers faced each other with each team riding a winning streak of at least three games was in 1996. Carolina won that game, too, en route to their first NFC Championship Game appearance, but the Buccaneers were also in the midst of a late-season surge, winning five of their last seven. Carolina won that ’96 game handily, 24-0, but that didn’t slow down the Bucs’ overall turnaround. That second-half run presaged the Bucs’ 1997 breakout, and the 2013 squad appears to be on the same path, having won three of their last four and put together four straight strong performances before Sunday’s loss
Tampa Bay’s defense started with a quick three-and-out, with CB Leonard Johnson coming up with a last-second PBU on what would have been a 20-yard pass to WR Brandon LaFell on third-and-five. The Bucs’ first drive started at their 32 after the punt and Glennon’s first pass was a perfect sideline throw to Underwood for 16 yards. A Rainey run up the gut out of a jumbo package was good for 11 yards, getting the ball into Carolina territory, and then Underwood found a hole deep in the Carolina defense, turning around for a 23-yard gain. From the 17, Glennon checked down to Rainey for five, but the runner’s second-down carry got just one. LB Thomas Davis made a great open-field tackle on a third-down throw to RB Brian Leonard, stopping Leonard two yards short of the sticks and forcing the Bucs to settle for Lindell’s 27-yard field goal.
Carolina record its initial first down of the game on the first play of the next drive, a crossing route by Olsen that picked up 13 to the Panthers’ 30. DE Adrian Clayborn and DT Akeem Spence combined to stop Stewart for a loss of one on first down, but Newton shot out of the pocket on second down and weaved down the left sideline for a stunning 56-yard gain. S Dashon Goldson managed to hustle from across the field to make a touchdown-saving tackle at the 15, but Newton threw to a wide-open LaFell in the back of the end zone two plays later to put Carolina in the lead.
Tampa Bay’s second drive did not go as well as its first. Glennon had two scrambling throws that had a shot but the first was broken up by CB Captain Munnerlyn and the second deep downfield by CB Drayton Florence. The Bucs had to punt from their own 20, but a 48-yard punt by Michael Koenen and a holding penalty at least pushed Carolina back to its 28.
The Bucs forced a quick third-and-10 on two incompletions – the first a coverage throw-away and the second an errant pass caused by DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim’s quick hit on Newton. Newton tried to hit LaFell on the left side on third down but the throw was high and it deflected off the receiver’s hands right to Tandy for the interception. Tandy got the ball back to the Carolina 32, but a two-yard loss by Rainey and a holding call pushed the Bucs back to near midfield. On third-and-20, Glennon settled for an underneath throw to Wright, but the seven yards the play gained were just enough to set Lindell up for a season-long 53-yard field goal.
Carolina faced a third-and-five at their 25 on the next series, and outstanding coverage downfield eventually forced Newton to scramble. LB Jonathan Casillas managed to get to Newton out of bounds just a foot or so before the sticks and Carolina had to punt. Eric Page executed a fair catch at the Bucs’ 16.
A sharp rollout 12-yard pass to Underwood moved the chains on the last play of the first quarter. LB Luke Kuechly was flagged for illegal contact two plays into the second period, creating a first down at Tampa Bay’s 36, and on the very next snap Glennon went over the top to Jackson, hitting him in stride for a 60-yard pass down to the Carolina four. A Rainey run and a fade to Underwood failed to move the ball, and then disaster struck when a scrambling Glennon tried to throw into the end zone and instead had the ball slip from his hand for a fumble. Carolina recovered at its own 19 to clip the scoring threat.
Catches of 16 yards by Smith and 11 by LaFell led to a first down at the Carolina 47 and an improvised pitch to Tolbert two plays later got 14 more, into Tampa Bay territory. A Tolbert sweep right worked to perfection, as well, putting the ball at the Bucs’ 22. The Bucs brought a huge blitz right up the middle on third-and-eight from the 19, but Newton had time to find Olsen over the middle for a first down at the nine. The Bucs forced a third-and-goal at the five, and DE Da’Quan Bowers’ power rush up the middle got him in position to hit Newton as he threw, forcing an incompletion. Carolina settled for a 23-yard Graham Gano field goal and a 10-6 lead with 6:23 left in the half.
The Bucs’ ensuing drive did not go well. A dumpoff pass to FB Erik Lorig lost a yard and a Rainey run only got that single yard back. On third down, DE Greg Hardy broke through for a nine-yard sack back to the Bucs’ 11. A delay of game penalty before the punt increased the difficulty level, but Koenen was able to blast a 54-yard punt, with Ted Ginn getting it back to the Bucs’ 49.
Newton took a shot at the end zone on a deep post in LaFell’s direction, but it was overthrown. He then found Ginn for 11 yards and Olsen for 30 on consecutive misdirection screen passes. A five-yard run by Stewart down to the three brought on the two-minute warning. The Bucs stopped Tolbert twice to make it fourth-and-goal at the one, and the Panthers lined up to go for it with 30 seconds left in the half. After a timeout by both teams, Newton lined up in the shotgun, took a running start and leaped over the pile, extending the ball over the line for a touchdown. Revis knocked the ball out of Newton’s hands, but not until the ball had crossed the line and ended the play.
The Bucs got the ball first to start the second half. The first three plays were all Rainey runs, with the second two going for 16 and nine yards. Glennon took a second-and-one opportunity to try to go deep but his pass was intercepted by S Mike Mitchell. A flag was initially thrown on the Panthers for pass interference but it was picked up by the referee with the ruling that Mitchell’s interception occurred well in front of where Jackson was held. The Panthers turned that takeaway into seven more points, as Newton found Olsen for a 28-yarder on the right side and then dropped in a 36-yard touchdown bomb to Ginn on the next play.
Glennon got the Bucs moving on their next drive, converting a third-and-four with a 20-yard pass over the middle to WR Chris Owusu. Rainey showed patience on the next snap, taking a handoff up the middle for 11 yards into Carolina territory. Two more Rainey runs made it first down at the Carolina 33 but the drive stalled at the 30 and Lindell hooked his 48-yard field goal attempt to the left.
Revis nearly intercepted Newton’s pass intended for Smith on the right sideline three plays later but couldn’t hold on and was also injured on the play. Newton then found Smith over the middle on third down for a gain of 17 to the Bucs’ 39, and Tolbert blasted up the middle for 16 more on the next snap. However, David picked off Newton’s next pass down the middle and returned it to the Bucs’ 27.
LB A.J. Klein ran around the left end of the Bucs’ line untouched on first down to drop Glennon for a loss of seven. Two plays later, Glennon had to scramble around the left end and came up well short of the sticks. Carolina followed with a 66-yard field goal drive that put the game out of reach midway through the fourth quarter.