View photos of the Buccaneers' Week 9 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
The Bucs fell again on the road to the division-rival Carolina Panthers. I've got a few initial thoughts following the Bucs latest disappointing loss, including a couple individual bright spots.
-Wide receiver Adam Humphries had a career day. He went into today's game only ever having scored four touchdowns in his career. At Carolina, the South Carolina-native scored not one, but two touchdowns on the day, the second of which put the Bucs within a score after the Bucs scored 21 unanswered points to pull themselves within seven at the start of the fourth quarter. Humphries caught a pass over the middle from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at about the 25-yard line in stride as he set off toward the end zone. A last-ditch effort saw Humphries lay out as he was being tackled to the ground, outstretching his arm to break the plane of the end zone. It was initially ruled short but Head Coach Dirk Koetter challenged the play and the call was overturned, closing the gap to 35-28 just about a minute into the fourth quarter. Humphries caught all eight of his recorded targets for a 100 percent catch percentage on the day.
-Another player that notched two touchdowns of his own was tight end O.J. Howard. He now has five touchdowns on the year through eight games. He had a team-leading total of six touchdowns last season, tied with fellow tight end Cameron Brate. This technically now puts him on pace for a double-digit touchdown year, which is pretty crazy for a tight end. Between him and Humphries each scoring two touchdowns, they became the first pair of Bucs teammates to do so since 2010.
-Again, the Bucs pulled within one score but couldn't overcome the initial hole they dug themselves in during the first half. The Panthers at one point were up 35-7 in the second quarter but then the Bucs' offense kicked in and scored 21 unanswered points leading them into the start of the fourth. It was the way the past few games have gone for Tampa Bay: overcome some seemingly insurmountable circumstances to tie or pull within a score and have a shot at the game but ultimately not be able to hold in the end. The dagger was the fourth-quarter touchdown by the Panthers after the Bucs had come back. The Panthers found themselves up two scores and with five minutes left in the game, the Bucs couldn't put together a fruitful drive and were forced to punt. Couple that with a turnover after the defense forced a three-and-out and the Panthers were able to run the clock down to preserve the win.
It ends up being especially frustrating knowing what both sides of the ball are capable of but timing-wise not being able to put it all together. Both the offense and the defense did some great things. The defense again took a while to get going, but opened the second half forcing two punts and a turnover on downs to give the offense a shot at the comeback. The offense, in turn, responded, scoring three hard-fought touchdowns to pull the Bucs within that one score. But the offense itself wasn't able to keep up in the beginning of the game either, committing a turnover in the second series and then again in the last series of the game. The defense had another multi-sack game that even saw linebacker Lavonte David in on his first sack since 2016. But the offensive line also gave up three sacks on Fitzpatrick and a couple negative plays in which running back Peyton Barber was tackled well behind the line of scrimmage.
-Another thing that hurt the Bucs this game was simply some poor tackling. Granted, it's no secret quarterback Cam Newton is hard to bring down. Running back Christian McCaffrey had both 79 yards rushing and 78 yards receiving in addition to two rushing touchdowns of the day due in large part to his ability to evade Bucs' defenders trying to tackle him. The Panthers were extremely creative in where and how they got McCaffrey the ball, clearly trying to take advantage of the Bucs' shift in their linebacking corps as well as the inexperienced secondary.
-The Bucs, who have struggled on the road, will now face a Washington Redskins team at home next week. The Redskins had put together a run that was stalled by the Falcons this week, hopefully exposing some of the team's weaknesses that Tampa Bay can exploit when they visit Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, November 11.