Plays to Love, Plays to Hate highlights the plays that have a significant impact in swinging momentum and impacting the eventual outcome of the game. There’s always plenty to hate about NFL officiating, so we will only focus on the plays on the field, not the refs. Let’s review how the Panthers self-destructed early, mounted a spirited comeback, then fell short in Week 2.
Three plays to love
Burns blows up McCoy: The Panthers trailed 21-0 with 1:23 left in the first half. Tom Brady had the ball at the Tampa Bay 31 with plenty of time to engineer a two-minute drive and get at least a field goal before halftime. But on first-and-10 Brian Burns exploded through the line and blew up LeSean McCoy right as the Buccaneers running back took a deep handoff. Burns dropped McCoy for a five yard loss which killed the drive and forced a punt.
Action Jackson’s interception: The Panthers first half self-destruction continued into the second half. On the second play of the third quarter, Robby Anderson lost a fumble. The Bucs took possession at the Carolina 27 — already in field goal range — when Donte Jackson made a diving interception on the very next play. Jackson returned the pick 44 yards to the Tampa Bay 47 and Carolina’s offense converted with a touchdown to cut the Panthers deficit to 21-7.
Samuel’s clutch conversion: The Panthers had the ball at their own 11 yard line and trailed 21-7 with 3:15 left in the third quarter. Facing third-and-6, failure to pick up a first down would mean Carolina would punt from its own end zone. Curtis Samuel ran a nice curl route, found an open spot, and made himself available for an easy 10-yard reception. This key third down conversion extended a drive that covered 93 yards and ended with a touchdown to reduce the Bucs lead to 21-14 in the fourth quarter.
Three plays to hate
Teddy’s early interception: The Panthers defense forced the Bucs into a three-and-out on the game’s first possession. Teddy Bridgewater then led Carolina’s offense down to the Tampa Bay 22-yard line and it looked like the Panthers would take an early lead. But on first-and-10 Bridgewater threw an inexplicably poor screen pass several feet over Christian McCaffrey’s head which was intercepted. Just when it looked like the Panthers would be playing with an early lead, a bad throw crushed all momentum.
Bridgewater’s first quarter fumble: Tampa Bay had just scored a touchdown to go up 7-0 in the first quarter. On just the second play of the Panthers subsequent drive, Bridgewater felt pressure, stepped up in the pocket, and didn’t sense a defender coming from behind. Teddy got strip-sacked, lost the fumble, and Tampa Bay took possession at the Carolina 23. The very next play was a touchdown pass to Mike Evans. The score went from 0-0 to a 14-0 Bucs lead in just over one minute of game time.
DJ’s route + Teddy’s throw = interception: With 10:15 left in the game the Panthers had shockingly reduced the Bucs lead from 21-0 to 21-14. Carolina had the ball and was nearing midfield, looking to tie the game and steal momentum. But on second-and-17 DJ Moore ran a somewhat lazy “banana” route (not a crisp in cut on a dig route) and Teddy threw the pass just behind him, leading to a backbreaking interception. Instead of driving to potentially tie the game, the Panthers coughed up the ball and Tampa Bay converted with a field goal to go up 24-14 with just 6:18 left. The Panthers could never get over the hump.
It’s not often that every Play to Hate is a turnover, but that was the case in this one. Turnovers always hurt, but each of these three came at particularly bad times and situations. They just crushed momentum.
Another play I “didn’t like” (versus “hated”) was the fake punt from the Tampa Bay 36 where Jeremy Chinn was stuffed at the line on a direct snap. A fake punt from the 36 won’t catch the defense off guard, so why not just bring out the offense?
Two additional plays that angried up my blood were Derrick Brown’s two different penalties on third down stops that gave Tampa Bay first downs instead of forcing a field goal attempt (first quarter) or a punt (third quarter). The rookie’s got to be smarter than that.
I give this young, still gelling team a lot of credit for not giving up when they were down 21-0 at the half. They ultimately fought back to being down just seven points in the fourth quarter with the ball near midfield before the final ill-fated interception. I like the spirit, competitiveness, and effort I’m seeing from this team. Occasional sloppy play and missed assignments are to be expected from the Panthers given the new roster, new coaching staff, and how the pandemic obliterated the preseason. Carolina is 0-2 and I still feel fine about the direction of the franchise.
Which Play to Hate had the biggest impact on the Panthers’ loss?
This poll is closed
Teddy’s early interception
Bridgewater’s first quarter fumble
DJ’s route + Teddy’s throw = interception