Earnest Graham on his first quarter touchdown catch
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0, undefeated, and at the top of the NFC South for at least a day. Who expected this before the season began? A great result for the Bucs, who have now won their first two games for the first time since 2005 when they beat the Vikings and Bills to open the season.
The Bucs scored on two touchdown passes: a 14-yard pass to Earnest Graham in the first quarter, and a 35-yarder to Mike Williams in the second quarter. Connor Barth connected on a 24 and 33-yarder, while the Panthers scored on a 37-yard pass from Matt Moore early in the game.
For most of the game, this was a defensive battle as the Carolina Panthers managed to shut out the Bucs' running game and managed to put pressure on Freeman. With the Bucs running the ball 30 times for 52 yards,Josh Freeman had to make the most of his passing opportunities. And so he did, going 12/24 for 178 yards and 2 TDs, adding 43 yards on the ground with 4 scrambles converting several important third downs. Kellen Winslow II and Mike Williams were big targets for him, Winslow getting 3 catches for 72 yards and Mike Williams 2 for 32 and a touchdown.
The Bucs prevented the Panthers from getting a scoring drive together for most of the game, forcing 3 turnovers and getting a key 4th down stop on the goal line to put the game away. Getting 4 sacks and 3 turnovers is a big game for the defense, and a big reason the Panthers could not move the ball downfield and score. The 4 sacks came courtesy of Quincy Black, Stylez G White and Tim Crowder, who got two sacks.
The rookies showed up in this game again. McCoy managed to get a lot of penetration adding a tackle while Mike Wiliams grabbed his second touchdown grab in the NFL. Brian Price showed up on the 4th down goal-line stop to open up a lane for Geno Hayes to tackle the running back.
But there were plenty of negatives too, most notably the offensive line. Our running backs only got 1.8 yards per carry, in large part because the offensive line failed to open up any lines. And while the Bucs did not allow a sack, Freeman had to scramble and run around to get the ball out several times. This offensive line was supposed to be the strength of this team, but it does not look like that's going to happen - the same story as last season.
On the defensive side the Bucs were inconsistent, allowing the Panthers to run for only 3.6 yards per carry, but allowing a lot of big plays alongside a lot of stuffs. Inconsistency was the word here, as the Panthers had 7 drives gaining 20 yards or fewer, but had 3 drives of 40 yards or more. While the passing game was shut down for most of the game, there were several cases of wide receivers being wide open behind our secondary, including a touchdown catch-and-run by Steve Smith. If Matt Moore had been a more accurate quarterback, this game could've ended up looking very different.
Luckily enough, Matt Moore was so terrible the Panthers benched him for Clausen - who did not do much better himself. The Bucs pulled out a victory against a team that had been a thorn in their side for years on end, and are now the top team in the NFC South - for one day at least. Let's enjoy this win!