A behind-the-scenes look at the Buccaneers' Week 8 matchup with the Panthers.
1) Bucs' run game gained ground
The Bucs gained some rhythm in their rushing attack during Sunday's game. It was most apparent in the second half, as the offensive line seemed to provide a few more lanes and holes for running back Doug Martin to take advantage of. Martin had 71 yards on the day and was a driving force behind a couple of the Bucs' longer drives. Martin had a 17-yard run on Tampa Bay's second drive of the third quarter, which resulted in a Patrick Murray 41-yard field goal.2) Despite injuries, defensive effort improved
Linebacker Kwon Alexander looked more comfortable in his second game back from injury. He registered 10 combined tackles on the day, leading the team and the defense in an improved effort. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was able to transition back outside with both CB Brent Grimes and CB Robert McClain out with injuries. Hargreaves had two passes defensed and five tackles with one assist. Cornerback Chris Conte also stepped up, nabbing his first interception of the season as he picked off quarterback Cam Newton at the Bucs' 36-yard line and added eight solo tackles of his own.**
3) Arsenal of weapons on offense**
Winston continued to show he has plenty of viable receivers, spreading the ball around to eight different players throughout the course of the game. Tight ends continue to be part of the offensive schematic, with both TE Cameron Brate and TE O.J. Howard getting in the mix. Coupled with the wide receiver duo of Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, the flexibility of the Tampa Bay's passing game is no surprise. It's passing attack that remains second in the league. 4) Penalties came at inopportune moments
As a team, the Buccaneers are a vastly improved team from last season with regards to penalties and overall discipline. Tampa Bay's defense had the third-most penalty yards of any team in the league in 2016. Through Week 8, that same defense now has the fifth-least penalty yards of any team. The offense has the third-fewest penalty yards this season as well. Unfortunately, it seems that the penalties the Bucs do commit come at very inopportune times. An offensive holding call at the Carolina 31 in the fourth quarter during Sunday's game backed the offense up as they were knocking on the door. That series would ultimately end on an interception as Winston tried to make a play on third-and-14.5) Turnovers too much to overcome
That interception on third-and-14 was one of two on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter. The 3-1 turnover margin was not in the Buccaneers' favor and it proved too much for the Bucs to overcome in the end. The Bucs lost the turnover battle for the second straight week but have committed multiple turnovers in the last three games. The good news is that Tampa Bay's defense has been able to come up with turnovers themselves as of recent weeks. If the Bucs can get back to playing complementary football as has been the focus surrounding the team, that turnover margin should even out.