BUCS – AFTER THE DUST SETTLES : PANTHERS
By Leo Haggerty

Let me give you a little historical perspective about myself.  That is necessary to explain my rationale in this column.

I have been a Social Studies teacher for over 40 years.  What you learn early in you academic career is that a majority, and I emphasize a large majority, of wars are lost and not won.  There is at least one major event, and possibly more, that effects the outcome.  Need I remind you of Hitler’s decision to stop bombing the British airfields as well as choosing to fight a two-front war when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union.  Also, don’t forget, the Japanese jumped the gun on Pearl Harbor by at least 6 months.  Are you getting my point?

With all that being said, I submit to you that professional football is the closest thing to warfare.  So, I am going to make the same supposition that a majority of National Football League games are lost and I can use the Buccaneers first two games as prime examples to prove my hypothesis.

In the opener, Tampa Bay did more things to lose the game than San Francisco did to win.  QB Jameis Winston threw two Pick 6 interception.  The Pewter Pirates had two touchdown called back for holding.  The Buccaneers had two more turnover with one being a fumble in the red zone.  Presenting those facts, I rest my case.

So, let’s move on to the Thursday night contest in Charlotte against the Panthers.  I am going to make the same case that Carolina did more to lose the game than Tampa Bay did to win it.

Before I go there, let me point out the good things done by Tampa Bay and it starts with #3.  The Bucs QB was 16-of-25 for 208 yards and a score.  Not great but add to that no turnovers and that equates to a 103.4 rating.  That a huge jump from 45.4 against Frisco and I would venture a guess that HC Bruce Arians will take a performance similar to that every Sunday.

The big difference, in my opinion, from Week 1 to Week 2 was that Winston had quiet feet.  The Bucs signal caller hit his drop mark and settled.  No happy feet like Week 1 against the 49ers and that’s a huge plus.  He could step into his throws and deliver the football on time with authority.

Another positive was the play of the defense.  Any time you hold an NFL team to under 20 points it’s a success.  To hold an opponent to without a touchdown is exceptional.

Plus, there’s another factor that will definitely effect the outcome and that’s a weather delay.  Tampa Bay and Carolina both experienced a 27-minute lightning delay.  When that happens, all bets are off because you don’t know how this will effect either team.

Even with those pertinent points, I still hold to the belief that Carolina lost that football game.  I’ll give you two enormous examples and both apply to the Panthers offense.

First, to say the offensive coaching staff did a poor job of protecting QB Cam Newton is an understatement.  #1 must have thought that Buc LB Shaq Barrett was a reincarnation of Lawrence Taylor.  Play after play, especially in the second half, #58 lined up on the Tampa Bay right side and came off the edge.  Most of the time, Barrett came unblocked and reeked havoc on the Panthers signal caller.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Carolina QB got on the headset to Panthers OC Norv Turner and asked if he planned to have anyone block that guy.

Second, and this is the big one.  With the Cats, down 20-14, facing a fourth-and-goal at the Bucs 2-yard line with just over a minute to go, the Panthers inexplicably line up in the Wildcat formation.  Putting RB Christian McCaffrey back in the Wildcat wasn’t a bad idea but putting Newton out as a wing right was unexplainable.

All that did was give the Bucs defense a pre-snap read that Carolina was going to run the football.  That put all the Pewter Pirate defenders on high alert that the Panthers were ignoring the pass and #22 would be the likely suspect to tote the rock.

So, it was no surprise that all of the Tampa Bay defenders were within a yard of the football and that Vernon Hargreaves was able to stop McCaffrey short of the goal line.

Not a smart play by the Cats. Also, the Bucs saw it on film last week when the Panthers used it against the Rams.

After all that verbiage, give the Bucs credit.  They went on the road on a short week and came home with a victory.  Not an easy accomplishment.

Now, Tampa Bay has 10 days to get ready for the Giants.  It will be the last home game until November 10th (thank you NFL for that idiotic scheduling move) so the Bucs will want to procure a victory before they become road warriors.

Look for my GOAL LINE STAND column on the Giants around mid-week.  Until then, enjoy your Sunday.