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Week 2 Game Recap: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, Carolina Panthers 14


What you need to know

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay's offense was serviceable, but the defense were the real stars of their week 2 victory over the Panthers. They hassled Cam Newton all night and bottled up superstar halfback Christian McCaffery. Tampa Bay sacked QB Newton three times and recovered a Newton fumble late in the 3rd quarter. Carolina drove to the Tampa Bay goal line late in the 4th quarter, down by just six points, but CB Vernon Hargreaves forced McCaffery out of bounds on 4th and 1 from the goal line to save the game. Tampa Bay QB Winston looked much better than his week 1 performance, narrowly missing a couple of extra touchdowns to Mike Evans and Breshad Perriman.

Carolina Panthers

Carolina's offense is being bogged down by a combination of factors, but Cam Newton's accuracy problems are a major reason. Newton's ability to throw from a firm base deteriorated as this game progressed, with pressure exacerbating things. He missed several straightforward passes, including a crucial third down late in the game against a five-man pressure that he seemed to rush, leaving the ball behind Curtis Samuel. The play calling of offensive coordinator Norv Turner is more conservative than usual at times, with Newton a non-factor in the ground game. The offensive line was a major liability in this game, which did not help Newton's cause. Left tackle Daryl Williams gave up multiple sacks. It forced Carolina to keep Christian McCaffrey in as a pass blocker, limiting his involvement in the passing game. The pass-heavy game script in the second half hardly involved McCaffrey, with Newton instead relying on Greg Olsen and D.J. Moore to win against man coverage, which they did quite often. Carolina continues to be plagued by an inability to convert short yardage and third down situations, which is putting a cap on this offense's upside.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Jameis Winston, 65 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 25 - 208 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 9 - 0
Winston improved vastly over his week 1 performance, as the offensive line did a much better job in pass protection and the run game. Winston and Evans nearly hooked up on an over-the-shoulder fade in the end zone in the 1st quarter, but Evans couldn't quite reel it in against tight coverage. The two did connect on a 41 yard deep ball down the left sideline later in the 2nd quarter, with Winston capping the drive with a wide-open post route to Godwin for a touchdown. Winston should have been intercepted on an underthrown crossing route to Perriman in the 3rd quarter, but LB Kuechly let the ball fall to the turf after hitting him squarely in the hands. Winston missed two scores late in the third as Mike Evans stumbled on a well thrown corner route, and Perriman couldn't quite get under a post route that Winston had chucked into the end zone.

RB Peyton Barber, 42 offensive snaps, Rush: 23 - 82 - 1, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets)
Barber looked solid in this one, making some impressive cuts at the line of scrimmage as he gashed the Panthers defense between the tackles several times. He scored in the third quarter, plowing through the secondary after carrying the ball through the middle of the offensive line untouched. The offensive line got a great push on the play and Barber did his part at the second level. Barber made an impressive catch on a low pass from Winston in the 2nd quarter while leaking out of the backfield, spinning away from a tackle as he collected the ball and dodged a second defender on his way to extra yards. Barber dominated snaps and backfield touches, with the other two halfbacks combining for just 5 touches.

RB Ronald Jones II, 8 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 9 - 0
It was a slow day for any Tampa Bay halfbacks not named Peyton Barber. Jones had an impressive 12 yard carry off right tackle in the 3rd quarter, breaking several tackles and moving the pile for a first down, but he lost yards with his few other carries. Jones was not targeted in the passing game.

RB Dare Ogunbowale, 16 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (1 targets)
Ogunbowale didn't see many snaps on offense. His one target was a checkdown pass in the 2nd quarter on 3rd and 14.

WR Chris Godwin, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 121 - 1 (9 targets)
Godwin was again more effective than Evans, turning nine targets into a team-high eight receptions and 121 yards. Winston hit him on an out route for the first play of the game, with Godwin dodging a tackle and darting up the sideline for extra yards. The two connected on a skinny post for a nice gain later in the 1st. Godwin made a tough catch on a slant route that was thrown behind him at the end of the 1st quarter. Godwin found paydirt again as he split out wide right and got open on a post route for a touchdown late in the 2nd quarter. Godwin got loose on a deep crossing route in the 3rd for his biggest gain of the day, 24 yards.

WR Mike Evans, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 61 - 0 (8 targets)
Evans duked it out with Carolina CB Bradberry for much of the day. He caught a wide receiver bubble screen for a minimal gain on the Bucs' first drive. Winston targeted him with a fade route in the end zone later in the 1st quarter, but Evans couldn't reel it in in traffic. Evans broke loose down the left sideline for a 41 yard gain on a deep ball from Winston in the 2nd, snagging it against close coverage from rival CB Bradberry. Winston found him in the third quarter on a crossing route that converted 3rd down. Evans and Winston barely missed hooking up in the end zone on the next play, as Evans stumbled a bit on a well thrown corner route that would have gone for six. Godwin again looked like the number one receiving option on the stat sheet, but the two missed touchdowns could have really padded Evans stats for the day.

WR Breshad Perriman, 31 offensive snaps (4 targets)
Perriman was targeted several times, but just couldn't get on the same page as Winston in this one. He had a step on his defender on a post route in the end zone late in the 3rd quarter, but Winston lofted the ball a little too far over his head.

WR Bobo Wilson
Wilson was not targeted in the passing game. He returned punts, with one impressive return called back in the second quarter for a holding call.

TE Cameron Brate, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (2 targets)
Brate caught an out route for a short gain before being pushed out of bounds in the 1st. Brate had one more tough catch in traffic to convert 3rd and 4 late in the 1st half.

TE O.J. Howard, 60 offensive snaps
Howard had a brutally slow day. He was targeted once in the 2nd quarter, but was flagged for pushing off on the incompletion. He was flagged gain for a false start later in the 3rd quarter.


Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, 79 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 51 - 333 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 0 - 0
Cam Newton started the game confidently, using play action to create clearer throwing windows to D.J. Moore and Greg Olsen. Newton ran the ball on a fourth down play early in the game, with a pitch option to Moore built in, but he was ruled short of the first down after a measurement. That setback seemed to be a kick in the teeth for the momentum of the offense. Newton picked himself back up, chucking a beautiful deep pass down the left sideline to a waiting Curtis Samuel for 44 yards. Things began to turn soon after, with Newton missing some easy throws, either throwing too high or too short of the target. The offensive line began to surrender pressure, with left tackle Daryl Williams in particular bearing the brunt of the Tampa Bay pass rush. At times Newton didn't even have two seconds to survey the field. Newton's connection with Greg Olsen on intermediate shots gave the offense some much-needed life, but a combination of Newton holding the ball too long and pressure quickly killed the momentum. An interception to a linebacker in underneath coverage was, fortunately for Newton, called back due to a defensive penalty though it appeared pressure forced a quicker release than he would liked on the play. On the very next play, however, Newton had the ball knocked out of his hands after a strange read option keeper, with the Bucs jumping on it. Newton's accuracy deteriorated as the pressure increased; he nearly threw another pick on a hopeful pass down the middle with no receiver in the area. A crucial third down play late in the game saw him throw an easy pass behind Samuel, who was running a shallow cross. With only a five-man rush, Newton appeared to rush the throw and not set his feet properly. The play was emblematic of his evening's work.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 79 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 37 - 0, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (6 targets)
Christian McCaffrey was effectively blotted out of this game after the first quarter. The offensive line proved to be a huge liability against the Bucs pass rush, forcing a change in strategy. Rather than running pass patterns, McCaffrey was kept in to block on multiple snaps and, after showing good toughness and patience on some early carries, was a non-factor until the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay's defense did an excellent job of taking McCaffrey away, but the pass-heavy game script did not help his cause. In the fourth quarter, on the final drive, Cam Newton hit McCaffrey on a swing pattern in the right flat. McCaffrey would be the last Panthers offensive player to touch the ball on the ill-fated final play. Taking a direct snap, the offense tried to use misdirection much like the Philly Special to move the play-side cornerback. The cornerback stayed put as McCaffrey ran towards his side, but an excellent tackled short of the first down marker put paid to Carolina's hopes.

WR D.J. Moore, 75 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 89 - 0 (14 targets)
D.J. Moore became a focal point of the offense along with the ever-reliable Greg Olsen with the young receiver's success coming mostly on in-breaking routes. Moore took advantage of the Buccaneers' man coverage consistently, getting inside leverage on slant routes off play action. Cam Newton peppered Moore with these passes, and the receiver showed excellent concentration and toughness on some where a defender met him with a tackle almost straight away. Moore and Newton showed excellent timing and understanding on a back shoulder pattern on the left sideline in the second half, the receiver spinning his body to catch the ball at the last moment. Moore was not used as a downfield threat, though a couple of targets his way were wayward due to Newton's inaccuracy and the Tampa Bay pass rush.

WR Curtis Samuel, 77 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0, Rec: 5 - 91 - 0 (13 targets)
Curtis Samuel announced himself in this game with a deep 44-yard reception against man coverage, executing a beautiful double move to beat the defensive back. Samuel had plenty of room to work with, but with the ball thrown a little shy of where it needed to be, he had to wait on it and got tackled. A subsequent deep target right sailed out of bounds. In the short game, Samuel had less success than his counterpart D.J. Moore, but he showed more variation in his routes. Samuel showed good understanding on a hitch route, running just past the sticks before planting his foot and turning back to Cam Newton. Samuel was unable to haul in a pass on a shallow crossing route from Newton on third down, with the ball thrown behind him. With the Bucs blitzing on the play, it appeared Samuel would have had room to work with. Samuel stayed involved as the game reached its climax, managing to catch a pass even as his facemask was being yanked.

WR Jarius Wright, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (6 targets)
Jarius Wright ran some nice patterns to give his quarterback a safe, easy target especially on third down. An early third down snag saw him tackled short of the sticks, but he made up for it with a beautiful pivot route on a later third down. Cam Newton let Wright down with a couple of off-target throws, including a deep one that sailed out of bounds.

TE Greg Olsen, 65 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 110 - 0 (9 targets)
Greg Olsen rolled back the years and, in the process, gave Tampa Bay fits in an uneven offensive performance by Carolina. The veteran tight end's savvy route-running and chemistry with his quarterback were in play early, with the two connecting well on over routes across the field. Tampa's linebackers and safeties simply could not deal with Olsen on such patterns, and he would have caught even more passes if Cam Newton's accuracy issues had not cropped up. Olsen offered very little as an after-the-catch threat, unable to put a move on a defender in the open field at one point, but his ability to get open was impeccable. Olsen offered the most consistent chunk play threat for the offense as route combinations involving speedsters Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore allowed the tight end to sneak in behind the underneath coverage.