Rapid Reaction: Panthers 38, Buccaneers 10
Despite a season where improvement was apparent team wide, that was not apparent today in Charlotte, as the Buccaneers capped off their season with their third straight loss. The 38-10 loss to Carolina capped off a 6-10 season. Here are the four biggest things I saw today.
1. The defense is due for an even bigger overhaul this offseason.
For a moment, let’s dispel the talk if Lovie Smith will be back for a third season as the Bucs head coach. The biggest thing that needs to be fixed is his defense, which has been an ineffective and inconsistent unit all season.
Don’t get me wrong: the unit definitely has its bright spots. Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Gerald McCoy and Bradley McDougald come to mind. But a lot has to change in order for this defense to keep with the rest of the division, not the mention the rest of the league. A 38-10 blowout in which the offense really didn’t have a chance is just another reason as to why the Tampa 2 is now seen as an outdated scheme. Trust me when I say that it hurt me to write that last sentence, Bucs fans, as true as it is.
2. Mike Evans needs to grow up. It’s getting ridiculous.
Mike: I shouldn’t have to write that sentence. You’re one of the most physically gifted and explosive receivers in the NFL. You’ve only been in the league for two years, yet you’ve topped 1,000 receiving yards in both campaigns. You cause defensive coordinators nightmares, and make offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and quarterback Jameis Winston consistently grin.
So why are you letting Josh Norman get in your head? It’s not necessary. When you don’t make a play, don’t go get in the official’s face and berate him. Don’t push opposing players. It’s immature, selfish and only hurts your team. You have an entire offseason to fix this problem. Grow up.
3. Despite being down for most of the game, there’s no reason to not give Doug Martin the football, Dirk.
Let’s get something straight: Doug Martin was the engine that made the Bucs offense run this year. There’s no arguing that point. And in most cases, when you’re down 24-3 at the half, you should switch to a more pass heavy attack in the second half.
However, the Bucs aren’t like most teams. They have a rookie quarterback, and one of the league’s best running backs in Martin. So why did the fourth year back, who came into the game with the second most rushing yards in the NFL with 1,364, only touch the ball 15 times for 48 yards? He only had 11 yards in the first half. That’s a figure I thought I wasn’t going to have to write this season.
Balance is what makes this offense dangerous. Without it, this offense loses a large part of its bite. So next season, Mr. Koetter, when your team is down, still feed to ball to Mr. Martin. You won’t regret it.
4. Weekly Winston Watch: An uneven ending to an impressive rookie season.
Per usual, let’s delve into the stats first: Winston finished his rookie season with a 29 of 47 completion/attempt ratio for 325 yards and two interceptions. He also had a rushing touchdown. He became the third rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards, joining Carolina’s Cam Newton and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, two young franchise signal callers who have led their teams back to prominence.
Was it his best performance? Of course not. He was inconsistent in the first half, throwing a lot of balls high. His first interception was entirely his fault. He was sacked five times. As usual, he wasn’t helped by his receivers’ hands. And it was a cold day.
But, as usual, there were plenty of silver linings. He had his usual assortment of strong throws, and stood tall in the face of relentless Panther pressure. He showed why Bucs brass, fans and a bunch of people around the league are high on him. As I have said many times before, the future is bright for Mr. Winston. Can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for him.
Quick Hits: Linebacker Danny Lansanah (hamstring) left in the first half… Martin finished the season with 1,412 yards rushing, 42 yards behind his rookie year total. Still a superb season for the fourth year back….David led the team with 12 tackles. He also had a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries…The Bucs will pick ninth in the 2016 NFL Draft, a definite improvement on this past year.