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The Panthers defense leads the way in 37-26 win over the Buccaneers

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The Panthers defense and special teams forced seven turnovers yesterday, which is pretty good.

The Carolina Panthers are now 4-2 after a strong 37-26 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London. Several players had stand out performances yesterday (both good and bad), so let’s dive right in and see whose stock is up and whose stock is down as the Panthers head into a much-needed bye week.

Stock up

James Bradberry: The Panthers’ No. 1 cornerback showed everyone why he’s at the top of the depth chart yesterday with two interceptions, including a pick on the very first play from scrimmage. He was also able to keep Mike Evans out of the end zone, which is always a good thing. Bradberry also racked up 10 tackles and four passes defensed. I was encouraged by what I saw from Bradberry yesterday and I’d like to see more performances like this in the future.

Gerald McCoy: The Gerald McCoy Revenge Game Part 2: Electric Boogaloo did not disappoint if you root for the Panthers. McCoy ended the day with three tackles, 2.5 sacks, a pass defensed and four quarterback hits. In other words, he was pretty good yesterday and I’m glad we signed him after the Bucs decided they didn’t need him anymore. Why they thought that I’ll never know, but I’m glad they did.

Vernon Butler: Butler is playing like a man who wants to get paid when he becomes a free agent at the end of this year. Two sacks and a forced fumble (technically two forced fumbles on back-to-back plays, but the Bucs recovered the first one somehow) is a good day of work for a rotational piece, and Butler showed yesterday that he deserves to be on the game day roster when Kawann Short returns from injury.

Curtis Samuel: Samuel is turning into an offensive weapon right before our eyes, and he showed what he can do yesterday with two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). His touchdown catch was one of the best catches I’ve ever seen him make. It looked like he literally took the football away from the defensive back, and I want to see more of that. I also want to see more of him as a threat out of the backfield on end around plays. The Panthers are taking advantage of his quickness and athleticism, and it’s paying dividends right now. I hope that continues.

DJ Moore: Moore didn’t find the end zone yesterday but he caught seven passes (on 10 targets) for 73 yards and had one carry for 13 more yards. I like how Norv Turner is using him right now and I hope we continue to see that as the season progresses after the bye week.

Stock down

Ray-Ray McCloud: When can the Panthers get a real punt returner who knows how to judge the ball in the air and hang on to it when he does catch it? I know that Marty Hurney liked one punt return that McCloud had when he was in college, but is that really a good enough reason to keep somoene on the roster who clearly isn’t working out? Brandon Zylstra is supposed to be a decent punt returner too, so why can’t we just give him a chance to see what he can do? It can’t be any worse, can it?

Jarius Wright: Wright caught one pass for six yards, and missed two key (catchable) passes that would have given the Panthers much-needed first downs. Both misses were on third down, and his one reception for six yards was on 3rd-and-7. Wright’s primary job is to be the third down ‘move the chains’ guy, and he was not that yesterday. He’s usually pretty solid so hopefully this was just a bad day and not a sign of things to come.

Christian McCaffrey: Before you get mad let me explain: I’m not saying that CMC is bad, I’m just saying that he wasn’t as effective yesterday as he usually is. It appears the Bucs are the one team who know how to stop him, because he didn’t do much against them in either game this season. Yesterday he was held to just 57 total yards (31 rushing on 22 carries, 26 receiving on four catches), and while he did score two touchdowns (and embarrassed defenders again), I was hoping to see more from him. Granted, it’s not his fault that he kept getting the ball against what looked like a 13-man box on first down, but I expected more from a guy who is currently in the league MVP conversation.

Honorable mentions

I think Joey Slye did a good job at redeeming himself after a poor game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and I really wish he could have made that free kick to end the first half. I thought that was a neat way to close the half out and I’m glad that Rivera was aware of that obscure rule. It’s a shame that it didn’t turn into points, but fortunately it didn’t matter in the end.

Kyle Allen managed the game well. He was 20-of-32 for 227 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and he didn’t fumble! He wasn’t the reason the Panthers won the game, but he also wasn’t the reason they lost, and that’s really all you can ask for from your backup quarterback.

I’m not ready to say that the Panthers have a quarterback controversy, because let’s be honest: Kyle Allen is not better than a 100 percent healthy Cam Newton, and if that’s the Cam Newton who returns the choice of who should start is quite clear. However, the Panthers should not rush Newton back into action and should wait until he is 100 percent, because right now Allen is doing exactly what they need him to do — manage the ship until the captain returns.

Dennis Daley had another quality game and looks to be a solid piece to the offensive line for the future. You can’t ask for much more than that from a sixth round pick.

It was good to see Greg Olsen back in the game plan yesterday. He caught four passes (of seven targets) for 52 yards and was a solid safety valve for Allen.

Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson were solid as always and combined for 10 tackles, while Kuechly had two passes defensed and an interception. I don’t know if the Panthers will be able to afford Thompson in free agency, but they have to at least make an attempt to bring him back because he’s working out perfectly as an inside linebacker in the Panthers’ 3-4 defense.

Javien Elliott had a nice revenge game with six tackles, a pass defensed and an interception. Considering that they’ve been without Donte Jackson for the last three weeks, the Panthers secondary has played as well as we could hope. They haven’t completely fallen apart and we can hope they will only get better when Action Jackson returns (hopefully after the bye — please get well soon, Donte).

Who stood out to you yesterday, Panthers fans? Whose stock is up or down as we head into the bye week? Share your thoughts with us!