Rapid Reaction: Panthers 37, Buccaneers 23


Today, the Bucs lost at home to division rival Carolina to fall to 1-3 on the season. To be quite honest, almost everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. From the second play of the game, which was a fumble after rookie quarterback Jameis Winston mishandled a wet football after the snap, I had the sense that this wasn’t going to be a good day. Well, it wasn’t. Let’s breakdown this latest home loss for the boys in red and pewter under coach Lovie Smith, which drops the coach’s record to 0-10 at home in the regular season.

1. Winston definitely took a step back today.

Today was not a pretty sight for Jameis Winston. Four interceptions and a fumble. Just let that sink in for a moment. This tweet by Bleacher Report is the perfect summary of how Winston’s day went.

Every time it looked like the offense was starting to put it together, a turnover happened. I mean, you would think that Jameis would have learned his lesson in the first half to not throw the ball in the direction of Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, who is quickly becoming one of the NFL’s best cover men. Nope. He threw another interception to him in the third quarter, after suffering a pick six to the Carolina defensive back on his first pass of the game.

His final stat line (26 of 43 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions) showed that he didn’t have the worst game ever. And this is true to some extent. He did have some strong throws, and showed great rapport with receiver Vincent Jackson (who had ten catches for 147 yards and a touchdown). However, his decision making showed a big step back today. In order for the Bucs to have any shot at winning more games this season, that cannot happen again. Too much is at stake for Winston to do anything but improve as the season progresses.

2. Seriously, Lovie. It’s time for a new kicker.

Look, I’m all for sticking up for your players when they have a bad game. But when your kicker misses two out of his three field goal attempts and one of his two extra point attempts a week after missing four our of his five kicks, something has got to give.

Kyle Brindza, it’s been nice knowing you. But it’s time for get a kicker who will at least make all of his extra point attempts. A 33 yard kick should be pretty much automatic for any NFL kicker. It’s not for Brindza. A memo to Lovie and GM Jason Licht, courtesy of former Bucs kicker Connor Barth (and SportsTalk Florida’s Jenna Laine):


I think that’s a sign that Lovie and Licht should be looking into. Hopefully that’s what they will be doing once the post game interviews wrap up.

3. The defense stumbles once again.

Another thing Lovie should work on: his defense. It’s been four weeks now, and the defense is still showing why the Tampa 2 is an outdated scheme in today’s NFL.

Despite getting into the backfield numerous times, they couldn’t sack Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. They only had one turnover (a fumble recovered by Tim Jennings). Lavonte David couldn’t make the easiest interception of his career. They still have their signature problem of not being able to tackle a single opposing player.

The only thing they did reasonably well today was limit Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart and tight end Greg Olsen. Other than that, Newton had his way with them. He threw two touchdown passes to Ted Ginn Jr., for heaven’s sake. If that’s not a sign of a struggling defense, then I don’t know what is.

4. Let’s end on a positive note, though: The run game was on point today.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s vision for a balanced attack was at least partially realized today by the performance of the running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims.

Martin showed great vision, patience and bursts of agility and power as he ran for over 100 yards for the eighth time in his career. He had 20 touches for 106 yards a touchdown that cut the Panthers’ lead to 17-10 in the second quarter. He did his part in taking the pressure off of Winston, although the rookie put it back on himself with his poor decision making. If Martin continues the roll he’s been on, expect him to be back in red and pewter with a shiny new contract next season.

As for Sims, the second year back caught his second touchdown pass of the season. He chipped in while running (six carries for 23 yards) and receiving (three catches for 30 yards and that score). This is exactly what Licht and Lovie envisioned when they took the former West Virginia back in the third round of last year’s draft. And so far this season, Sims has delivered that vision in spurts. I’m excited to see what he does the rest of the season.

Quick Hits: Defensive end T.J Fatinikun (knee) did not return after his injury…The team had a season low five penalties for 48 yards…31 of the Panthers’ 37 points came off of the Bucs’ five turnovers.