Take 2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers v. Carolina Panthers – What’s Changed
The first time these teams met, the Bucs were 0-6 (on their way to 0-8) and the Panthers were trying to get over .500 for the first time since 2008. This time the Panthers are still riding a winning streak, are guaranteed a .500 season for the first time since 2008, but the Bucs are now riding a three-game winning streak (and an OT loss in Seattle). Jonathan Jones, from the Charlotte Observer, wrote about the struggles for the Panthers running backs of late, but what else has changed for these two teams going into this second matchup of the season?
Mike Glennon: In the first game against Carolina, he threw a career high 51 times, completing 30. In the four games following, he’s attempted no more than 23 passes in a game, and is completing over 70% of those attempts. After throwing three interceptions in his first two games, Glennon has thrown only one since. Glennon’s connecting on about two deep passes per game and not turning the ball over making him a suitable game manager. He has had a tendency to get happy feet, even when his pocket holds, creating some sack opportunities for teams.
Tampa Bay’s rushing game: The Bucs rushed the ball only 11 times with their running backs and no more than six times in a quarter (the 2nd quarter had eight, but two were botched snaps) against the Panthers. In the four weeks since, they’ve had only two quarters, with as few as five rushing attempts and have averaged 34.25 carries per game. Mike James, the rookie from Miami, was the Bucs leading rusher against the Panthers, but he really took off against Seattle before fracturing his ankle against Miami (had 40 yards on 5 carries at the time of the injury). Filling in for James, who was filling in for Doug Martin, is Bobby Rainey, a 2nd year back out of Western Kentucky. Rainey ran well against Atlanta, but struggled mightily against Detroit (1.9 y/c). The Bucs had some success against the Panthers (and since) running behind fullback Erik Lorig. Their I-form running game against the Panthers 3rd-ranked rushing defense will go a long way to determining the winner.
Turnovers: Tampa Bay was even in giveaway/takeaways in every game through the first six weeks of the season, before the played the Panthers the first time. The Bucs have forced 12 turnovers in the four games since (3 per game) and the first game v. Carolina is the only game, this season, where the Bucs posted a negative giveaway/takeaway ratio (1-0). These turnovers have been significant because the Bucs have only out-gained their opponent twice this year and only once (Miami) during their winning streak. Last week, against Detroit they were out-gained by 160 yards, but the five turnovers were enough to make the difference. In addition, the Bucs have been taking care of the ball, only having one turnover in this four game stretch.
Penalties: Tampa Bay has had only two games with less than eight penalties this season and none were better than the three penalties for 21 yards they posted against the Panthers in the first game. In fact, the Bucs are the most penalized time in the NFL at 8.5 penalties per game (only team over 8). Through out the winning streak they have average over 9 penalties per game.
Trick plays: Not unlike the Panthers at the end of the season when Chud was running the offense, the Bucs have been using trick plays on a weekly basis. They’ve attempted multiple surprise onside kicks, a jump pass, direct snaps to their running backs (including a pass) and a fake field goal all in the four weeks since the Panthers last played them.
Ted Ginn Jr: Despite having a drop (all too common of late) against the Bucs, Ginn had his best game as a Panther receiver, catching five passes for 80 yards. In the four game since, he’s had only 65 yards on eight catches.
The first time out the Panthers won 31-13, but the score was only 14-6 at halftime. The Bucs had multiple drops and botched snaps in that game and have been playing better of late. Ultimately, however, if the Panthers can continue to play solid rush defense and not turn the ball over, they should walk out of BofA with a win on Sunday.