Tampa Bay Buccaneers Comeback Effort Falls Short Against Carolina Panthers


Sep 7, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown (12) is sacked by Carolina Panthers defensive end Wes Horton (96) during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their season opener to their NFC South rival Carolina Panthers Sunday, 20-14, at Raymond James Stadium.

The Bucs trailed all game long, falling behind 17-0 in the fourth quarter.

After a rally got the Bucs within three points, and after the Bucs defense stopped the Panthers, Tampa Bay had an opportunity to drive for the game tying or go ahead score. Instead, on the first play after a false start penalty, Bobby Rainey fumbled after catching a Josh McCown pass.

For the first three plus quarters, the Bucs were severely outplayed by Carolina. However, after a Kelvin Benjamin touchdown reception with 14:53 left in the game, the Bucs offense finally came to life.

McCown hit Chris Owusu for a 19-yard score with 7:23 left and then connected on a six-yard touchdown with Rainey with 2:06 remaining. After the Bucs forced Carolina to punt, and perhaps beforehand could have had a pick six as Dashon Goldson dropped a sure interception, Rainey would fumble to end the game.

McCown finished the game going 21-of-32 for 174 yards and two touchdowns, as well as two interceptions, which could easily have been prevented if not for poor decision making. The second interception happened when McCown fumbled the snap, picked it up, tried to spin out and hit a screen pass but was instead intercepted by Roman Harper. Carolina scored 17 of their 20 points off Bucs turnovers.

The Bucs run game was almost non-existent. Doug Martin was held to nine yards on nine carries and left the game in the third quarter with an injury and was not a factor moving forward despite re-entering the game.

Brandon Myers caught six passes for 41 yards while rookie Mike Evans hauled in five passes for 37 yards. Austin Seferian-Jenkins had a 26-yard catch on the Bucs’ first drive but that was all.

The Bucs secondary was carved up by backup quarterback Derek Anderson, who replaced the injured Cam Newton, all game long. He finished 24-of-34 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs rush defense was adequate as they held Carolina to 113 yards on 33 carries.

Lavonte David led the Bucs in tackles with 10 while Goldson had nine, as did Mason Foster. Gerald McCoy had the lone Tampa Bay sack but Tampa Bay had six tackles for loss.

The Bucs offense in the first half was lifeless. They put up just 84 yards, 54 of which came on a Jorvorskie Lane run. Josh McCown looked lost, completing 3-of-8 passes for 36 yards while making erratic throws. On the Bucs’ second drive of the game McCown threw a pass as he was falling to the ground that was intercepted by Antoine Cason.

Carolina took the lead in the second quarter after Derek Anderson hit Greg Olson for a 5-yard score to cap a 15 play, nine minute long drive.

On the Bucs’ following drive, newly acquired guard Logan Mankins was injured. He left the game and did not return and was replaced by Garrett Gilkey.

The Panthers extended their lead to 10-0 as Graham Gano hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. They went 5-for-9 on third down and picked up 13 first downs compared to Tampa Bay’s two. The Bucs had the ball for just 7:15.

Anderson was 17-of-22 in the first half for 157 yards as he carved the Bucs secondary up. Defensively, the Bucs stuffed the run well, restricting Carolina to 46 yards on 20 carries.

The Bucs also lost cornerback Mike Jenkins to injury in the game, while Johnthan Banks also left injured. The Bucs also failed to generate a turnover as Carolina’s offense looked comfortable for the vast majority of the day.

Rookie Solomon Patton, who was activated from the practice squad, looked very good returning kick offs and punts.

Tampa Bay committed only three penalties which is a positive for Lovie Smith on an overall disappointing day.

Tampa Bay host the St. Louis Rams on Sept.14 in their next game.