— by Patrick Magoon (patrickmagoon.com) of WIZS
— photo by Patrick Magoon
The Carolina Panthers advance to 6-2 on the season following their beatdown of divisional rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America stadium. A pair of picks and a late touchdown helped seal the win after a sloppy performance at the beginning of the second half. The play of the game was Curtis Samuel’s 33-yard double-reverse touchdown. He started on the right side of the field – then took the handoff to the left side of the field where Newton was the lead blocker before finally ending his route on the right side of the end zone after evading multiple tackles.
Quick. Unique. Efficient. Remarkable. These are all words that could be used to describe Carolina’s performance on offense in Sunday’s game. The unit got off to a slow start failing to move the chains on their first possession of the game – then, the pace of the offense changed – in a matter of minutes. With the help of playmakers D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel and the creative mind of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the Panthers were able to take a comfortable season-high 21 point lead in the first half. The Panthers reached the end zone on all five red zone attempts – and Newton finished the game with a season-best 133.2 passer rating.
Carolina’s receivers broke tackles left and right and dismantled Tampa Bay’s secondary, netting a combined 247 receiving yards. The chemistry shared between Newton and the young receivers on the team continues to improve week-after-week, making them a hard group to stop when they get room to run.
Tampa Bay’s offense struggled to string together several significant gains in the first half. Their players could not easily create separation from defenders. Their offensive line gave up two sacks and let Fitzpatrick absorb multiple hits. The unit found the end zone just once, in the second quarter, when Fitzpatrick connected with his tight end O.J. Howard in the end zone. The Buccaneers saw most of their success on offense when a tight end was targeted, a position that the Panthers’ defense has struggled to cover this season.
The Buccaneers gambled early in the second quarter by electing to run a fake punt play in the on their side of the field to try and ignite some consistency in an otherwise inconsistent offense – unfortunately, they were not able to move the chains after the ball was tipped in the air and knocked away from Tampa’s receiver. Their success through the air was minimal for the rest of the half.
Shockingly enough, the tides turned at the start of the second half. “Fitzmagic” started to come to life at the beginning of the second half, but it was too late. Carolina’s defense got sloppy and therefore, giving up a touchdown in each of the last quarters. Their energy levels depleted and the group shifted to prevent defense, which gave the Buccaneers more space to work with on offense. Their offense struggled with time management and penalties in the third quarter, which allowed the Buccaneers to shrink Carolina’s lead to one touchdown to start the fourth quarter.
“When it’s clicking it’s clicking. But we have to be better in the third quarter. We know that. Everyone notices it,” said Cam Newton via Carolina Panthers staff writer Max Henson.
The top performers of the matchup against the Buccaneers were defensive end Mario Addison, wide receiver Curtis Samuel, running back Christian McCaffrey and cornerback Donte Jackson.
Mario Addison had himself a day. The Panthers finished with three sacks, all of which, were credited to Addison. He did an excellent job of rolling off blocks and disrupting Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick and company struggled to develop a consistent passing game for most of the game when Addison was in his face.
Curtis Samuel is an excellent route runner. When Samuel gets the ball in open space, he does an excellent job at evading tackles. Head coach Ron Rivera pointed out the difference between horizontal playmakers like D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel and other veterans like Torrey Smith. Samuel will grab a pass on one side of the field, and then get tackled close to the other sideline after a big gain. “Torrey Smith is the vertical guy but D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel can make plays sideline to sideline,” said Rivera via Joseph Person of The Athletic.
Christian McCaffrey averaged 4.6 yards per carry and helped the Panthers build their lead with a pair of rushing touchdowns. McCaffrey does it all from setting up blocks to rushing in for touchdowns and everything in between. McCaffrey has shown that he can be a three-down back every game – his numbers prove it.
Donte Jackson continues to make a case for defensive rookie of the year after yet another solid performance on defense. He has now intercepted four passes in eight games. Today, he made a crucial interception to help his team end the game on a high note. Jackson also recorded five total tackles and did an excellent job guarding his man.
The Panthers will make the journey to Heinz Field this week to take on the 5-2-1 Steelers on Thursday at 8:20 P.M. EST.
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