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Bucs vs Panthers: Five keys to victory

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Tampa Bay has a chance to get revenge and hurt Carolina’s postseason chances on Sunday.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans has recorded 115+ yards in three of his last five games.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance to get revenge against the Carolina Panthers today. Just four weeks ago, the Bucs were dismantled by the Panthers 42-28. The score didn’t reflect the difference in play on the field.

Dirk Koetter’s team was playing behind from the get go and really didn’t have much of a chance to get in a rhythm like they wanted to. Carolina’s offense did whatever it wanted all day whether it was through the air or on the ground.

However, now Tampa Bay will get to play a Panthers team that hasn’t won a game since that pounding of the Bucs four weeks ago. If there’s ever a chance to catch an opponent while they’re down, this is it.

1. First half defense

The Buccaneers were put of the game early the last time these two teams met. Carolina led 14-0 after the first quarter and 35-7 with just seconds left in the half.

That forced Tampa Bay to essentially have to play a perfect final 30 minutes and they nearly did. Regardless, the defense can’t put the Bucs offense in this type of scenario again.

The Panthers could no wrong against Mark Duffner’s unit four weeks ago. That should piss this defense off and make them come out with a renewed effort.

2. Slowing the Panthers down on the ground

Carolina killed the Buccaneers by running the ball in the previous matchup. The Panthers ran 32 times for 179 yards and four touchdowns with Christian McCaffrey being the main benefactor of that production.

The star running back carried the ball 17 times for 79 yards and two scores while also catching five passes for 78 yards. Carolina used a lot of misdirection and jet sweeps to confuse the Bucs defense.

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel scored on a 33-yard rush while fellow wideout DJ Moore recorded a 32-yard run of his own during the game.

3. Limiting turnovers

An early interception led to the Panthers grabbing a 7-0 lead and taking away the momentum early in the first quarter from the Tampa Bay offense in the last game between the two teams. Another interception late in the contest stalled any chance of a comeback.

The Buccaneers did an excellent job of holding onto the ball against San Francisco. They didn’t commit a turnover for the first time since week one. Still, Tampa Bay currently sits with a -21 turnover differential and have yet to prove they can consistently take care of the ball.

4. Mike Evans

Mike Evans had one of the worst games of his career the last time he played the Panthers. Evans caught one of ten targets for 16 total yards in the loss. Just to show you how bad that was, check this out. It was just the third time in his 72 career games that Evans has had one or fewer catches. It was only the fourth time that he’s ever had 16 or fewer yards in a game.

Since then, the former Texas A&M star has found his groove. Evans hasn’t recorded less than 51 yards in the last three games and has recorded 115 or more receiving yards in three of his last five games.

If there’s anyone looking for redemption on Sunday outside of the Bucs defense, it’s got to be Evans.

5. Protecting Jameis Winston

Tampa Bay surrendered three sacks in its last game against Carolina. One of the sacks resulted in a fumble but luckily the Bucs were able to recover it.

Since the three-sack performance by the Panthers defense four weeks ago they’ve gotten to the quarterback just four total times in three games.

The Buccaneers offensive line needs to step up and bury a struggling defensive front.