In this game of football, sometimes no matter how much time you spend or how much you work, the end result isn't always what you want. With weeks of preparation for teams across the league to open up their individual seasons, only one team can win. The Buccaneers opened up their season with the Panthers on Sunday and they gave us the grit and fight we can hope to expect to see each and every week. The Buccaneers fought to the finish but fell to the Panthers, 20-14. There's always reasons why a team wins and loses football games. These are a few things my eyes saw:1) TURNOVERS: No matter what team you are, if you turn the football over, you can't win. Protecting the football on offense is a premium. Yesterday vs the Panthers the Buccaneers turned the ball over three times. Josh McCown threw (2) interceptions and a final fumble on the last offensive drive by Bobby Rainey. McCown will be the first person to tell you that those two interceptions were both poor choices. He was trying to keep those plays alive and deliver a burst for his team, but in those situations you're better off taking a sack or protecting the ball and live to fight another day. The slow start for Josh improved to a strong and exciting finish. In the second half, Josh ended up passing 27 times and completing 19 of them for 70%, and had two touchdown passes. I grasped from Josh's play that he improved throughout the game after making a few mistakes and gave the Bucs an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter.2) OFFENSIVE LINE: The biggest concern for our football team heading into the season was our offensive line. Initially their were a few minor miscommunications by the looks the Panthers had shown.
When those looks came up again later in the game, the adjustments were made and they were picked up. Giving up three sacks on your quarterback is never good. The Panthers were able to squeeze the pocket on some early series in the first half that gave McCown an unsettling pocket to work from. The loss of Logan Mankins didn't help either. As the game moved on, the line settled in and gave Josh the time he needed to have a strong second half. As far as the running game is concerned, we left some opportunities on the field. Jorvorskie Lane had a fantastic 54-yard scamper that was well blocked by the line. There were a few running plays in the game that were blocked perfectly by the line but we just needed to dig out the safeties and get a hat on them and we would have sprung a few big runs. In football it takes all eleven to make a play go. There is nothing that can't be addressed or fixed in practice this week for them to get better. I fully expect that we will see that improvement.3) DEFENSE: When I turned the defensive tape on, it really opened my eyes to several things. First Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David both had tremendous games vs the Panthers. McCoy had 8 tackles and a sack in the game and caused disruption for the front of the Panthers. David was tracking tackles on the field everywhere. His instincts are as good as ever and both of these guys are off to outstanding starts. Collectively this game came down to three series. The Buccaneers forced 7 punts of the Panthers 11 series in the game. In the first half, the third series was the biggest challenge for the team. The Panthers had a 15-play drive where they converted three straight 3rd down situations. On the first, the Bucs had a two man line stunt that was just simply picked up by the Panthers O-line and their quarterback Derek Anderson made a big time throw.
On the second, the Bucs brought a seven man pressure vs their six blockers. Carolina picked it up perfectly leaving one Bucs defender unblocked off the edge, and again, Anderson sees the pressure coming in his face and delivers a a quick pass to his inside receiver.
On the third, Carolina runs a well-designed heavy run play-action pass to the left w/ the QB rolling out to the right and their tight end, Greg Olsen, slides out and picks up the short first down. Again, in these three plays the Panthers had to be perfect and they were scoring a touchdown to finish that drive. Outside of that series the defense played tough in the first half. The second half the Panthers beat us on one pass down the sideline for a touchdown where our cornerback, Mike Jenkins, is in the perfect position to defend except can't get his head around to make a play on the great catch by Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
After shutting down the Panthers on the rest of the series in the second half, the opportunity came to take advantage on what would have been Carolina QB Anderson's first BIG mistake. Lavonte David applied great pressure on Anderson as he throw a sailing pass right to Bucs safety Dashon Goldston. Unfortunately he was unable to come up with the INT.
Bottom line the Buccaneers gave our offense a chance to win by shutting down the Panthers offense in the second half. You play good solid defense for four quarters waiting for your moment to turn the game around and we missed our opportunity. Overall I was impressed and excited about the watching this defense moving forward.
I'll finish by saying this. The NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint. Half of the NFL teams lost on Sunday. Every game is a teaching tool for each player and coach to work harder and improve their play for the following game. As for the fans, we all need to take a breath and understand there is a process that the season will take. The team is full of talented players and strong leadership through each position. This week the Buccaneers will have that opportunity to correct the mistakes and prepare to take on the St. Louis Rams at home on Sunday.