NFL Wire News

Panthers-Buccaneers: What we learned


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The benefit of a steady backup quarterback is paying off for the Carolina Panthers.

A return to sturdy defense is a good idea, too.

Those factors paved the way for a 19-17 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.

Even without a sustained touchdown drive, quarterback Derek Anderson orchestrated his second victory of the season against the Buccaneers.

“To have a backup who’s a starter-caliber quarterback, there’s a lot to be said for that and there’s a lot of value in that,” said Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who caught 10 passes for 110 yards.

Graham Gano kicked four field goals, including one from 45 yards out with 8:31 remaining for a 19-10 lead, and the Panthers needed to go only 4 yards for their lone touchdown.

Anderson, filling in because Cam Newton was injured in an automobile wreck five days earlier, completed 25 of 40 passes for 277 yards.

The Panthers (5-8-1) won for the second week in a row and they will be in first place in the NFC South if the New Orleans Saints lose Monday night at Chicago.

“Just keep fighting and have belief,” defensive end Kony Ealy said. “If you have belief, you never know what can happen.”

Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown scrambled 16 yards for a touchdown with 3:11 left. The Buccaneers did not get the ball back until 23 seconds remaining at their own 9-yard line.

McCown completed 13 of 28 passes for 154 yards, but he was intercepted by linebacker Luke Kuechly with six seconds to play.

The length of Newton’s absence is uncertain, though he appeared pain-free as he walked through the locker room after the game.

The Panthers held more than a 15-minute advantage in time of possession.

Three plays into the second half, McCown fumbled as he was sacked by defensive end Mario Addison and the Panthers recovered at the Tampa Bay 4. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery made a diving 2-yard touchdown reception from Anderson.

“I caught him from the side,” Addison said of the defensive play. “I ripped the ball out. I know we need that ball.”

The Panthers had a chance to build on their 16-10 lead when reaching the Tampa Bay 3, but running back Jonathan Stewart’s fumble was recovered by defensive tackle Akeem Spence at the 8-yard line.

Carolina punted twice after taking possession two more times in Tampa Bay territory in the third quarter.

Anderson threw an interception early in the fourth quarter, but a roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive end Larry English negated that play. Tampa Bay would have had possession around the Carolina 30.

It was the fourth loss in a row for the Buccaneers (2-12), who were eliminated from playoff contention with last week’s loss at Detroit.

What the Panthers said:

“Way better than we were two weeks ago. One thing we do have a hand in is winning each week.” — TE Greg Olsen on the Panthers, who moved into second place in the NFC South and have two games left against teams (Cleveland and Atlanta) without winning records.

What the Buccaneers said:

“We don’t want them to get those long drives like that but once our backs are against the wall it is time to buckle down and that is what we did for the most part.” — LB Lavonte David on Carolina’s four possessions that lasted 10 or more plays but all resulted in field goals.

What we learned about the Panthers

1. The Panthers can function well at times with backup quarterback Derek Anderson, who’s 2-0 this season (both outings against Tampa Bay) as a starter. He filled in for quarterback Cam Newton, who was injured in an automobile accident. It might be a one-time shot against for Anderson, but this seemed to be a tougher task late in the season than it was when he started the opener against Tampa Bay after more regular practice repetitions during the preseason. Anderson was turnover-free, though the Panthers weren’t efficient in the red zone. “Everything was not as clean as we would’ve liked, but we kept fighting,” Anderson said.

2. The Panthers can win these close-to-the-vest types of games, much like they did a year ago when they captured the NFC South crown. That’s a formula that tends to work best for them and they’ve talked more the past couple of weeks about believing in the process and allowing that that pay off for them. They committed only one turnover in the victory against Tampa Bay and they didn’t yield a pass play of more than 23 yards.

–QB Cam Newton was injured in an automobile accident Tuesday, just two days after one of his finest games of the season in a rout of New Orleans. The back injury that resulted from the wreck gave the fourth-year quarterback a new perspective. It also made him instantly more popular because of concerns about his health. He was on the sideline for the game against Tampa Bay after he and the offense heard boos in the previous home game in a loss to Atlanta. The team announced that Newton could play next week against Cleveland, but his status continues to be evaluated.

–LB Luke Kuechly is rarely short on defensive accomplishments, but his first interception of the season came as a game-clincher against Tampa Bay. “I finally got one,” he said. “I’ve been trying to run around and get one for a while and I think a lot of that credit goes to the guys up front,” he said. Kuechly has seven career interceptions.

–K Graham Gano responded from a rough outing in his previous home game when he missed on two late-game field goal attempts in a loss to Atlanta. He was good on four of five field goals against Tampa Bay in a 19-17 victory. “I’m glad I was able to do my part, but I’m a perfectionist at the same time and I wish I could have that 50-yarder back. I love hitting those,” he said of his lone miss.

What we learned about the Buccaneers

1. The Buccaneers are willing to experiment with some combinations as they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. There was movement on the offensive line by switching offensive tackle Demar Dotson and offensive tackle Oniel Cousins. But so far, coach Lovie Smith has been reluctant to go back to quarterback Mike Glennon, who was dubbed the starter at the beginning of the season. Smith admitted that the passing game never got in sync against Carolina, though he stayed away from assessing blame on quarterback Josh McCown for that. The Buccaneers are in a mode where they need something good to happen before the end of the season and they have two home games remaining to make that take place.

2. The Buccaneers had nearly as many rushing yards (151) as passing yards (154) against Carolina. The rushing attack continues to show signs of efficiency, particularly with running back Doug Martin. Martin notched 96 rushing yards on 14 carries, showing some bursts of speeds. Though there’s only two games remaining in the season, Martin said he’s feeling the best he has all season. He dealt with a knee ailment beginning with the season opener and later coped with ankle soreness. “Now I’m feeling the healthiest that I’ve felt,” he said.

–QB Josh McCown has been dubbed as the Tampa Bay starter even though the Buccaneers are out of playoff contention and younger QB Mike Glennon waits in the wings. The Buccaneers are 1-8 with McCown as a starter this year. Coach Lovie Smith seemed to give McCown a break when assessing his play and his 13-for-28 passing rate. “A lot affects that completion percentage,” Smith said. “We can all do a better job.”

–DT Gerald McCoy suffered a hyper-extended knee and left in the first half against Carolina. That added to an already-depleted defensive unit for the Buccaneers. Coach Lovie Smith said McCoy’s injury was to the same knee that has been previously injured, but that it’s a different type of injury.

–OL Demar Dotson moved to left tackle for the Carolina game in a move that coach Lovie Smith described as made because Dotson has been deemed the team’s best tackle. He had been playing on the right side. The initial reaction from Smith was that Dotson “did a decent job.” It seemed to be a good time to give Dotson a sort of tryout on that side of the line.

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