BUCS – GOAL LINE STAND : PANTHERS
BY LEO HAGGERTY
It’s the Battle of the Defeated. Tampa Bay travels to Charlotte to take on Carolina Thursday night with both teams having a multitude of similarities.
Both the Bucs and the Panthers lost their opener at home to NFC West opponents. The Pewter Pirates were defeated by the 49ers and the Cats took it on the chin from the Rams.
Both have QBs that people are starting to question whether they are franchise signal callers but for different reasons. Panthers QB Cam Newton is coming off surgery on his throwing shoulder. Never a good thing. Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston just hasn’t performed up to expectations. His detractors question whether #3 can handle the mental part of the game.
Both teams need a win desperately. The Bucs need to get on the left side of the dash especially with their brutal six-game road trip on the horizon after the Pewter Pirates host the Giants next week. The Panthers want to desperately avoid losing their first two games at home which, if you go by past Nation Football League statistics, makes it almost impossible to make the playoffs.
Finally, both are hoping to make significant progress this year as they try to dethrone the reigning NFC South champion New Orleans Saints. Now that’s one tall order if you’re 0-2 out of the gate. For that reason, look for both teams to get after it from the opening kickoff.
Also, because of the short week, I am posting this article in the BREAKING NEWS section. Look for the rest of the BUCS – GOAL LINE STAND columns to be under the FEATURED ARTICLES : PROFESSIONAL banner.
Below are my four keys to victory. Are they the same as yours or am I totally off base here?
No mater what, I’ll meet you at the television set to see how this tilt turns out. See you then and enjoy.
1ST DOWN – FORGET ABOUT IT
The bad news is that the Bucs lost the opener. It was a defeat but, with the change of outcome of a play or two, Tampa Bay could easily have walked away with a victory. There are some bright spots.
That leads me right to the good news and that is the Pewter Pirates didn’t get trounced like the Dolphins. The Fish got blistered at home by the Ravens to the tune of 59-10. Miami now has to go to a total rebuilding process and may not recover for weeks.
The Bucs have to move on from the opening loss to Frisco and put it out of the their mind. If they don’t, it won’t bode well for the Bucs especially if Superman get any hint that there’s vulnerability on the Bucs defense.
Tampa Bay has to play hard for 60 minutes in all three phases of the game. They also have to play like they won last week. No woe is me attitude when things go bad and there will be times that occurs. Find a way to play through it and get back in the game mentally. If the Bucs don’t, it’ll be a long plane ride back from Charlotte.
2ND DOWN – AVOID THE HYPE
Last week, it was all about the return of Kwon Alexander, who was whisked away by the current 49ers GM and former Bucs great John Lynch. The sad part is #59 got ejected on a very questionable call and basically played no factor in the Frisco victory.
This week it’s all about going up against former Buccaneer Gerald McCoy. #93 was let go in what the Tampa Bay hierarchy describe as a salary cap decision.
The Pewter Pirates need to keep the focus on the game and not on one individual. The Bucs are playing the Panthers. They are not playing Gerald McCoy.
You can bet that the former Bucs Pro Bowl DT will be fired up. That you can take to the bank. Who cares if he get two sacks and recovers a fumble if Tampa Bay emerges victorious.
The Buccaneers need to keep their eyes on the prize. Don’t get distracted by making this a personal vendetta. It’s all about team.
3RD DOWN – BE KRYPTONITE TO SUPERMAN
You know when you make up your weekly grocery list and you automatically put down milk and bread and eggs. This one is a key to victory that will always be on the list when you play the Panthers.
We all know that Panthers QB Cam Newton, when healthy, is a Buccaneer killer. He rarely, if at all when he’s not hurt, has a bad game against Tampa Bay.
The main reason for that is that the Buccaneers have consistently failed to generate any pressure on #1. Again, and I know that you’re sick and tired of hearing my quarterback mantra, but if an NFL QB can throw the football where he wants to and when he wants to, you’re getting beat. The addition to that is if that QB is an elite one, you’re getting beat badly.
DC Todd Bowles needs to come with schemes that will get to Newton early and often. Make Cam conscious of the rush so he can’t just stand there, all 6’6″ of him, and pick you apart.
4TH DOWN – DON’T BEAT YOURSELF
Simply put, the Bucs shot themselves in the foot last week against San Fran. Two Pick Six interceptions, with the second one in the last two minutes that put the contest out of reach, along with a couple other turnovers combined with numerous other miscues torpedoed the Buccaneers chances of winning.
The good news is that almost all of the mistakes are correctable. The bad news is that, with only one full practice before the Thursday night contest, the turnaround may be too short that everything cannot get fixed.
Hopefully, Tampa Bay can get a bunch of mistakes corrected. If not, could be a long evening in Charlotte.
OK, it’s time for my prediction and so far I’m 0-1 on the season. I have to take the Panthers in this one. The big reasons are Carolina is at home on a short week and Christian McCaffrey could be the best multi-purpose back in the NFL along with the Cam factor.
I think it will be close but those three factors will put the Cats over the top. Carolina holds on, 20-16, with a big stop last in the game.