LG Logan Mankins (#70) is good. That is my summation after him only playing 9 snaps before he was injured with 7:59 left in the 2nd quarter. His aggressiveness is very apparent and can be seen in only his 8th play of the game when he literally throws Panthers CB Bene Benwikere (#25) to the ground like a sack of potatoes for the crime of having the audacity of getting in Mankins’ way. Then, on the very next play, he is chasing DE Greg Hardy (#76) down the field, just to whoop his ass it appears, when the ball is intercepted and he makes the tackle. 10 yards down field. Very impressive. Getting him from the Patriots is the best transaction, of the 216 done by Lovie so far, that the Buccaneers have conducted this year. Logan Mankins is good but there is a problem: has never been on a team this bad.
I am going to have to assume that the Buccaneers were too busy with the 216 transactions they have done this year to worry about things such as tackling, passing, running, blocking or catching. This game was a veritable list of how not to win a football game.
In the preview to this game we mentioned a couple of things that needed to happen for the Buccaneers to win. QB Cam Newton (#1) did not play for the Panthers so the point of stopping him became moot. In his place was ten year veteran QB Derek Anderson (#3) who, until this game, had only thrown 4 passes in the past three years. It is difficult to tell if Anderson played really well or the Bucs defense simply played really bad. In either case, Anderson put up very respectable numbers with 24 completed passes out of 34 attempts for 230 yards and 2 TD and 0 interceptions.
Our field general QB Josh McCown (#12) did not fare as well. His stats of 22 completions out of 35 attempts, 183 yards and 2 TD with 2 INTs does not in any way reflect how bad his play was during the game. Most of those stats came with less than 7 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. The interceptions he threw looked like high school level skill. They were really bad. I do not know if he has been told to do whatever it takes to not get sacks but Drew Brees is the only quarterback I know that can throw the ball while being tossed to the ground. And even then he only throws it so that it is an incomplete pass; he does not actually throw it in the air so that anyone can catch it. McCown, on the other hand, kept tossing the ball into the air whenever he was in the grips of a defender. I am not exactly sure what he was trying to do out there but whatever it was it did not work.
I also counted numerous plays where McCown got happy feet and ran out of the pocket when he did not need to do so. It is understandable, with this offensive line, that the QB will be weary of getting crushed back there but that fear has to be tempered. Running out of the pocket after a second or two is not ideal in this league, especially when there is no need.
The Panthers offense, even without their starting quarterback, out-tricked our defense on many occasions. It is a point of concern for me that our defense seems to be easily tricked by play action, zone reads, misdirection, etc. It is something that is going to have to be addressed eventually. The Panthers tricked us on about 20% of their plays and many times those tricks led to big gains.
The Buccaneers run game was putrid. We amassed a whopping total of 102 yards rushing but over half of that, 54 yards, came on one run play by FB Jorvorskie Lane (#46). That leaves 48 yards on 16 runs. RB Doug Martin (#22) only had 9 yards in 9 carries. His pass protection was flat out awful. I am not certain about Martin’s future with the Buccaneers. Lovie depends on a stout runner who can break tackles, catch the ball and pass protect. Martin is having a hard time with all three of those aspects.
The offensive line played badly especially after Mankins left the game. There seemed to be a ton of confusion about who is supposed to block whom and where the play is going. Our right side got beat by stunts a couple of times. Our left side was as porous as a sieve. I do not know much about LG Garrett Gilkey (#72) who replaced Mankins but I do know that he did not play that great. There was actually a play where three offensive players missed a block on a blitzing defender. Our center Evan Dietrich-Smith (#62), Gilkey and Martin all whiffed on blocking LB Luke Kuechly (#59) who blitzed up the middle for a sack. And this was a play where the Panthers only rushed three defenders, one of them being a linebacker.
Besides all of the horrible performances on the offense, the thing that bothered me the most was the attitude. No one seemed excited to play. No one was amped up. It looked to me like everyone was out there doing no more than collecting a paycheck. This can be seen vividly during the last play of the game. We are down by one score with the ball on our own 21-yard line with one play left. We need 79 yards to score a TD but instead of even trying, McCown lobs a short 9-yard pass to TE Brandon Myers (#82) who then lays down on the ground. Game over.
As bad as our offense played, our defense played worse. Lovie is touted as a defensive coach and much emphasis has been put on the defense to perform on an elite level. Unfortunately, unless someone gets super powers soon, that does not appear like it will happen. We could only hold the Panthers to one 3 and out series (compared to the Buccaneers offense’s five 3 and outs) . The Panthers defense had 2 interceptions, 3 sacks and a fumble recovery. The Buccaneers defense only had 1 sack, 0 interceptions and 0 fumble recoveries. Tackling was bad as well. Almost as bad as it was in the 2011 season, but not quite as horrible. There was one play in particular with 11:38 to go in the 4th quarter where three Buccaneer defenders missed three separate tackles on a runner. Even LB Lavonte David (#54) got in on the missed tackles stats with missing two tackles during the game. They also had David covering the Panthers star draft pick WR Kelvin Benjamin (#13) at one point. That almost made me choke on my beer.
And it was not only the stats that looked bad for us, but our defense looked lost and confused out there (like our offensive line did). A number of times I caught linebackers and our secondary spinning around in circles trying to figure out where they were supposed to be and who they were supposed to cover. Carolina was easily throwing the ball on us and their stats would have been much better had their receivers not dropped some sure catches.
Positives to take away from this game are few and far between. We did good on not getting penalties. We only had three penalties called against us for a total of 15 yards. Two of those three penalties were on DE Gerald McCoy (#93) for encroachment. He led the team in penalties last year and it looks like he is trying to keep that leadership position this year.
The Panther’s defense ran blitzes 13% of the time and ran stunts 18% of the time. Our defense ran blitzes 15% of the time and ran stunts 13% of the time. DT Clinton McDonald (#98) was double teamed 34% of the time, McCoy was double teamed 32% of the time, DE Michael Johnson (#90) was double teamed 20% of the time and Adrian Clayborne (#94) was double teamed 10% of the time.
Overall, I am shocked that after 216 player transactions and a whole off-season with new coaches that our team actually looks worse than it did last year. We looked bad, we played bad and we got beat by a team that is much better than we are. I fear it is going to be a long year for us Buccaneer fans.