The Buccaneers dropped their fourth consecutive game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday by the score of 19-17. It was a game of two halves as the Bucs lasted the entire first half with zero penalties, zero turnovers, and brought momentum into halftime with a 10-9 lead. Unfortunately, in the final 30 minutes, the mistakes and lack of execution showed up once again. The eye in the sky never lies and these are some of the reasons why the Bucs fell in Carolina.
Every week, one of my keys for the Bucs to win is to protect the football. Once again on Sunday, the turnover bug created the points that the Panthers needed to separate themselves from the Bucs. The quarterback is usual the one to fault for losing possession, but Josh McCown's two Sunday fumbles were caused by a lack of protection from the offensive line. I challenged the team not to turn the ball over and said that if they didn't they could win this game. Well, until that first turnover in the third quarter it was 10-9. After the Bucs lost the first fumble, they never led again.
TIME OF POSSESSION
The Panthers dominated the time of possession vs. the Bucs in this one. Although the Bucs defense was able to hold the Panthers to mostly field goals, the Panther offense chewed up yardage and time with long drives in between the 20s. Stopping Derek Anderson on third down was the problem in the first meeting between these teams, and yesterday stopping Derek Anderson on first and second down was the main issue. WR Kelvin Benjamin and TE Greg Olsen were able to gain chunks of yards and both players finished with 100 yards, while RB Jonathan Stewart added solid runs to keep the yards coming and the clock ticking. The fact that the Bucs defense forced field goals allowed the Bucs offense to hang around. But the lack of first downs and stalled out drives did the Bucs in by the end of the game.
I found seven missed opportunities in the game that the Bucs just weren't able to overcome. Five of them came on the first five series of the second half. The Bucs closed out the first half with a field goal that gave them a 10-9 lead. But that momentum was drained on the five possessions that followed: fumble, three & out, three & out, three & out, fumble. Another missed opportunity came on the Panthers second to last drive with the Bucs down by six when Derek Anderson threw an interception to LB Orie Lemon negated by a roughing the passer call on DE Larry English. Finally, on that same series, CB Alterruan Verner dropped a sure interception that would have taken away the late field goal by the Panthers. All of these missed chances provided a formula that didn't equate to a win.
LACK OF EXECUTION
It was evident in this football game that the Bucs missed assignments on both sides of the ball. While I don't know the plays and assignments that the Bucs players are running, I can tell you that when you have unblocked Panthers defenders making plays in the backfield and Panthers receivers pulling down catches consistently on similar routes, you have either a blown assignment by a player or a lack of execution in the scheme that was called. Being fundamentally sound through four quarters of play has been an issue all season for these Bucs. They need to find a way to play an entire game of sound football on a more consistent basis or this same result will continue to show up.