The week 11 matchup against Tampa Bay is an opportunity for the Panthers to exact some revenge for the way this failure of a season started. The Bucs were the team Carolina opened the season against. Last season the Panthers put a drubbing on Tampa Bay in both games. So going into the 1st game of this season we were expecting a win. Now the Bucs had improved their roster with the acquisition of some high priced free agents, but with a new and unproven college coach, who was making his 1st foray into the professional ranks as a head coach, I thought they would win and do so with relative ease. This was the epitome of counting your chickens before they hatch because the Buccaneers had something else in mind for the Panthers. Payback! And boy did they ever! The game was not a blowout on the scoreboard, but Tampa Bay tyrannized the Panthers on the field.
The Panthers were out-physicaled on both sides of the ball. Running the ball was not possible and when Cam dropped back to pass he was hunted, hurried, and hit. The Bucs did a fantastic job of taking Carolina completely out of their game plan, and in typical fashion, the Panthers coaches did not make any in game adjustments. When the offense has arguably the best running back combination in the NFL, and they run the ball 13 times for only 10 yards, you should make adjustments instead of totally abandoning the run. This game was the beginning of what can be described as a disenchanting season. Let’s look at some numbers from the 4 losses the Bucs have had this year and see if we can use them to formulate an effective game plan allowing us to win.
Tampa Bay has the #1 rushing defense in the league. This does not mean we shouldn’t run the ball, we tried that in the 1st meeting, and failed miserably. We have to stay away of the dreaded read option play. We need to keep it simple and traditional. Use the “I” formation, 2 tight ends, or even “I” formation with 2 tight ends. We need to line up in these power formations and truly commit to the run. We should make use of lead dives, off tackle runs, traps, and draws. We should try to keep from having the backs run outside the tackles, this allows for Tampa Bay to flow to the ball and generally requires the offensive line to sustain their blocks longer. The Panthers offensive line has been, well offensive, as of late and I think we should put as little pressure on them as possible. In the 4 losses Tampa Bay has had this season the teams averaged 91.5 yards per game. They did this with an average of 26.75 carries per game in those losses. The average yards per carry in those 4 losses, a Lilliputian 3.4 yards. When looking at things from that perspective, we should be capable of besting that yards per carry average.
On the opposite end of the defensive spectrum you will again find the Tampa Bay defense. The Bucs are ranked 32nd against the pass. This does not mean we should throw the ball all around the field, but when we do throw we should do so judiciously. We need to use 3 and 5 step drops. Quick routes and lots of underneath stuff. We should also make good use of the backs with screens and using them as outlets or safety valves for Cam. The other dimension we need is Cam to take off running when he doesn’t see anything open. This added dimension to the offense will cause the defense to worry about more than just covering their man, they will have to have one eye in the backfield. In their 4 losses, the Bucs have given up 373.25 per game on average. That is with an average of 40.5 pass attempts per game. That breaks down to an average of 9.21 yards per pass attempt. Again not numbers that are difficult to attain. The big thing is not to turn the ball over. Being careless with the ball will cost us the game.
It is of the utmost importance that we play with ball security. If we commit turnovers against this defense, their offense will hurt us. The longer we are able to keep our offense on the field the better for us. I know we are capable of beating this Buccaneers team. The fact they had their way with us in week one should be enough motivation for us to really get hyped for this one. I won’t be addressing special teams before the game on Sunday but it should go without saying, we don’t need to allow ANY return touchdowns. I will give a keys to victory: defense preview in the next day or 2. Look for it.
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