The ending to the Carolina Panthers’ Week One matchup against the Los Angeles Rams was disappointing, but it was a game in which they played well enough as to where they could have won. I think the Panthers were happy with how they performed against the defending NFC Champions.
Last night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Completely different story. Yes, Cam Newton threw for over 300 yards, and he started to take deep shots down the field, much to the joy of Carolina Panthers fans. When the Panthers’ offense was stalling, Newton led a few drives down the field, most notably the game-ending drive that finished with a clutch fourth-down stop by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On the downside, the Panthers offense, most notably Christian McCaffrey, was shut down. Coming off a career week against the Rams, McCaffrey was limited to 53 total yards against a stingy Buccaneers defense. While he threw for plenty more yards this week, Cam Newton made some questionable decisions, including a screen pass on third-and-long. In addition to this, Newton missed plenty of open receivers, including multiple times on deep balls. There was one play that stood out to me in the second half, when Newton threw a ball between two of his receivers and it landed between them.
Panther Nation was starting to get fed up with the lack of offensive execution, as they were heard booing after the Newton screen pass on third down, in addition to other plays. As the Buccaneers took a knee to run out the game clock, the boos became even louder. In a game that many expected the Panthers to win, especially given the Buccaneers’ poor performance last week against the San Francisco 49ers, the Panthers laid an offensive dud.
If there is one positive takeaway from this game, however, it is Panthers kicker Joey Slye, who was a perfect four-for-four on field goals, with a long of 54 yards to end the first half. If the Panthers are looking for their kicker of the future, they have found him.
Next week, the Panthers need to get their offense going. Opposing defenses know that Christian McCaffrey is probably going to get the ball, as evidenced by his 53 total yards last night, so Newton will be relied on more in the pass game. I expect him to rest up and prepare for next week at the Arizona Cardinals, which does not get any easier for the Cats.