The first NFC South Divisional match-up of the season was played out on Thursday night in Carolina. It was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who picked up a vital road win against the Panthers.
Despite the fact that the Panthers have lost eight of their last nine encounters, Carolina were heavy favourites. Four quarters later, the Bucs picked up their first win of the season and handed Carolina their second home loss in just over four days as the Bucs won 20-14.
Don’t let the final score give you the impression that this was a close encounter. Despite a last gasp goal-line stand by Tampa, this was an impressive performance by the Bucs. Against their much fancied rivals, Tampa they left plenty points on the field.
Both Mike Evans and especially Breshad Perriman could have and should have each scored touchdowns. Throw in a missed field goal and this game should have been put to bed in the third quarter.
Tampa were far from perfect on Defense but the front seven were outstanding against the Panthers. Christian McCaffrey averaged just under 123 yards per game in 2018. McCaffrey started 2019 on fire against the Rams in week 1 by amassing 209 yards. A similar performance was expected against a Bucs Defense which has been one of the worst in the league over the past three years.
Step forward new Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. As quick as you can say ‘Mike Smith’s Defense sucks’, the Bucs are practically unrecognisable on the defensive side of the ball. Holding one of the top Running Backs in the NFL to a scarcely believable 53 yards. And frightening the life out of Carolina’s Quarterback Cam Newton
What has happened to SuperCam? Just over three years ago, Newton was unstoppable as he threw and ran his way to the 2015 MVP. Fast forward three seasons, two shoulder operations later and Cam is a shadow of his former self.
Coming into Thursday nights encounter, the former 1st overall pick had lost his last seven games on the bounce. Newton had not thrown or ran for a touchdown in his last three games either. Well that stat has increased to his last four games after Thursdays match-up.
Despite having nine possessions in the Tampa half, the Panthers could not record a touchdown. One of the top rushing quarterbacks in the NFL history, Newton rushed for minus four yards on the ground. Throw in the fact that Newton also missed a plethora of open receivers, then it was another performance to forget for the Panthers number one.
Honourable mention to the much maligned Quarterback. After a barrage of critism after his performance in week 1, Winston was under huge pressure to perform.
Never one to let a previous poor performance affect his confidence, Jameis was calm and confident on Thursday. The Bucs Quarterback, whilst seemingly hesitant in the first half, got better as the game progressed.
Other than one brilliant play from Luke Kuechly, who was outstanding throughout, Winston never looked like turning the ball over. If he can produce this type of performance on a regular basis then the Bucs future will surely look the brightest it has for years.
After a disappointing week one, the Bucs have kick started their season with a road win against a Divisional rival. As for Carolina, unless their talisman Quarterback can get back to anywhere near his best, then it may be season over for the Panthers after only week 2.