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Panthers vs. Buccaneers: Instant Grades and Analysis for Carolinas' Week 1 Game

Stephen FenechCorrespondent IAugust 1, 2016

Panthers vs. Buccaneers: Instant Grades and Analysis for Carolinas' Week 1 Game

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    The Carolina Panthers struggled to a 16-10 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Week 1. 

    The loss sends the Panthers into the basement of the NFC South along with the New Orleans Saints. While the basement isn't an enviable position, it is far from insurmountable at this point in the season. 

    Let's take a look at the Panthers' final post game grades and evaluations. 

Cam Newton- C+

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    Overall Game Grade- C+

    While this was far from the best performance of Cam Newton's career, it was far from his worse as well.

    Newton connected on 23 of his 33 attempts for 303 yards and a touchdown. On the negative side, he threw a few balls that he shouldn't have and had a couple passes intercepted.

    Also, Newton gained only four yards on five rushing attempts in a game that saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers completely shut down Cam's ground game. 

    For the team to succeed this season, Newton will have to lead the offense to more than ten points per game. That shouldn't be a problem for him, but if the offense struggles against the New Orleans Saints next week, Netwon will start to feel the pressure. 

    Fourth Quarter- B- 

    Cam Newton was unable to do much with the Panthers first two drives and have only had sustained success on one drive all afternoon.

    Newton has thrown two interceptions and still hasn't been able to make much happen with his feet. He has also held the ball too long on two occasions, which ultimately led to sacks. 

    On the third drive of the quarter, Newton showed tremendous nerve in his own end zone when he took a shot after getting the ball off to Mike Tolbert who rumbled downfield for 20 yards.

    After the completion to Tolbert, Newton hit Louis Murphy deep down the right sideline for fifty yards. On the next play, Newton went over 300-yards passing when he connected with Steve Smith for seven yards.  

    On a critical third and goal, Newton was stuffed on a run play and the Panthers were forced to bring on Justin Medlock. 

    Third Quarter- C-

    Cam Newton led the Panthers down the field on the strength of his arm at the beginning of the third quarter for the teams' only touchdown.

    On that drive, he found Steve Smith, Greg Olsen and Bradon LaFell for the touchdown.

    After that, things went downhill for Newton as he threw two interceptions before the third quarter wrapped up. On each pick, Newton tried to fit the ball into too tight of a hole and paid the price for it.

    Like the Panthers offense as a whole, the third quarter started great before coming to a slow halt.  

    Second Quarter— B-

    Cam Newton went eight-for ten in the second quarter and was finally able to find Steve Smith for three connections.

    He almost threw a couple interceptions, but both bad decisions turned out to be incompletions.

    At this point, Newton hasn't been able to get anything done on the ground which has been perplexing.

    Coming into the season, the common sentiment was that Newton had to depend on his arm more to stay healthy and continue to progress as a player.

    That being said, his ability to make things happen with his legs will always be one of his strengths. Hopefully Newton will try to make something happen on the ground in the second half, in hopes of jumpstarting the Panthers offense.  

    First Quarter—C- 

    On his first two and a half drives, Cam Newton went four-for-seven and only moved the chains twice . 

    He also wasn't able to get anything going via the run game, as the Panthers offense was stagnant on their first two drives. 

    While he did manage to complete passes to Louis Murphy and DeAngelo Williams to end the quarter, it wasn't enough to salvage a good grade.

    The Panthers won't win this game unless Newton raises his level, something we all know that he is perfectly capable of doing. 

Offense — C-

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    Overall Game Grade- C-

    The Panthers offense was disappointing in Week 1, but Steve Smith did haul in seven passes for 106 yards. 

    The biggest issue appears to be the rushing attack, but that could be attributed to the absence of Jonathan Stewart. While I didn't expect his absence to hurt the offense as much as it did, it's no secret that he is an important member of the backfield. If he wasn't, GM Marty Hurney wouldn't have signed him to a lucrative extension before training camp. 

    Brandon LaFell caught the team's only touchdown but only caught two other passes.

    Cam Newton found six different targets, but without a run game the unit failed to consistently produce solid drives. 

    Fourth Quarter- C

    Not much from the offense during the first half of the fourth quarter, as Cam Newton was sacked twice and was unable to lead any solid drives. 

    This isn't the Panthers offense that we expected to see and it has been disappointing. At this point, it's fair to say that the defense has carried the offense.

    Newton was able to make some big plays down the field, especially the 51-yard strike to Louis Murphy.

    Once the Panthers hit the red zone, the drive stalled and were forced to settle for a field goal.

    Carolina's offense would never see the field again, as the Bucs ran out the clock. 

    Third Quarter- C+

    The Panthers opened up the second half with a failed DeAngelo Williams run and a tough five yard gain by Steve Smith.

    After that, the offense opened up and the Panthers found themselves into the end zone three plays later.

    Cam Newton found Greg Olsen for a big first down, then floated a ball to a wide open Steve Smith, who ran hard for a 32-yard gain.

    After the big plays by Smith and Olsen, Brandon LaFell was able to get wide open and walked into the end zone for the Panthers first score of the 2012 season.  

    Second Quarter—C

    Cam Newton and the pass offense was better in the second quarter, with completions being made to Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Louis Murphy.

    Smith exploded in the second quarter, hauling in three catches for 58 yards.

    The Panthers didn't score any points in the first half, but at least they showed signs of life in the second quarter. 

    DeAngelo Williams and Newton need to get the ground game moving, or the Panthers will continue to struggle in the second half. 

    First Quarter— D

    The offense got very little going in the first quarter, as they only managed to get two first downs. 

    Greg Olsen hauled in two passes for 24 yards, once again proving that his combination of size and athleticism makes him a viable option. 

    DeAngelo Williams lost seven yards on his two carries and hauled in one pass for five yards. Overall, Williams and the Panthers backfield were a non-factor in the first quarter. 

Defense — B+

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    Overall Game Grade- B+

    Looking at the game as a whole, it is safe to say that the Panthers defense perfumed admirably despite the poor performance of the offense.

    Each unit on the defense did their job for the most part and they didn't allow the big plays that killed them last year.

    Surrendering 16 points isn't a bad performance, especially when you consider that they were on the field for almost 38 minutes.  

    If this is a sign of things to come for Carolina, then the defense will play at a level that will allow them to compete for a playoff berth.  

    Fourth Quarter- B-

    The Carolina Panthers defense forced the Bucs to go three-and-out to start the fourth quarter, with Greg Hardy making the stop on third down. 

    The Panthers run defense has been solid all game, and that has continued to be the case in the fourth quarter. The Bucs haven't broken many tackles and the pass rush has been relentless in the second half. 

    Captain Munnerlyn made a huge deflection in the middle of the fourth quarter that may have save a touchdown and forced the Bucs to kick a field goal.

    With 5:25 left in the fourth quarter, the Panthers forced the Bucs to go three-and-out giving the offense another chance to try to get something going.

    Josh Freeman connected with Vincent Jackson on a critical third-and-two, which crippled the Panthers chances of winning the game.

    The Bucs were able to move the chains and run out the clock, but this loss shouldn't be attributed to the defense.  

    Third Quarter- B+ 

    Greg Hardy sacked Josh Freeman to end the Bucs final drive of the third quarter. 

    As a unit, the Panthers are playing much better in the third quarter and are getting more pressure on Josh Freeman, who clearly isn't as comfortable in the pocket as he was in the first half.

    The run defense has been solid, which has been enough thus far in the second half.

    The Panthers secondary has also done a good job in covering Vincent Jackson, who Freeman looked for many times and couldn't connect with.  

    Second Quarter— C

    The Panthers defense only allowed three point in second quarter, which was an improvement on the first quarter.

    Chris Gamble and Josh Norman were both flagged for pass interference, but the Bucs only got a field goal on that drive.

    Tampa Bay only had one real drive in the quarter and they did score on that drive, but at least it was only a field goal.

    The Panthers allowed the Bucs to put 13 points on the board in the first half and will have to be better in the second half.  


    First Quarter—D 

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers absolutely dominated the Carolina Panthers on their first drive. 

    If the drive is the sign of things to come, then it is going to be a very long day and season for the Panthers.

    On their first drive, the Bucs moved the chains six times and didn't have an answer on third down as they converted both of their attempts on the most crucial down. 

    Tampa Bay had no problem through the air or on the ground. In fact, the only thing the Panthers did well was not giving up huge plays. Instead, they bent then broke.

    On their second drive, Josh Freeman hit Dallas Clark on a 33-yard strike to put the Bucs in scoring position.

    Frank Alexander did make a nice play batting down a Freeman pass to put an end to their second drive.   

Special Teams— C-

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    Overall Game Grade- C-

    The Panthers had a punt blocked and were unable to do much of anything in their return game. 

    Justin Medlock and Brad Nortman were solid, but that won't be enough to win the Panthers many football games this season. 

    Getting a punt blocked is unacceptable, as it often leads to guaranteed points for the opposing team. Special Teams coach Brian Murphy has a lot of work to do this week, as he needs a spotless performance out of his unit moving forward after this disappointing effort. 

    Fourth Quarter- D

    Aqib Talib blocked Brad Nortman's first punt of the first quarter to swing the field position in the Bucs' favor. It was a major blow to the Panthers that need to be playing sound football because they are playing from behind.

    Joe Adams took a return thirty-one yards mid-way through the fourth quarter, but only brought the ball out to the 22-yard line.

    Brad Nortman punted the ball 47-yards that forced the returner to call for a fair catch, giving the Panthers defense one last chance to make a big play with decent field position.

    Justin Medlock connected on a 21-yard field goal to bring the Panthers to within six.  

    Third Quarter- C 

    The Panthers kick off coverage unit stopped the Bucs kick off returner at the 17-yard line to maintain the momentum that the offense created.

    Joe Adams returned a punt for seven yards, but that was hardly a game changing play.  

    Second Quarter— C

    Brad Nortman punted the ball twice in the second quarter. Once he downed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on their twenty with a nice punt and the Panthers defense actually got the Bucs off the field.

    On his second punt, he only kicked it 35-yards and the Bucs returned it to their 39-yard line.

    First Quarter— C

    Brad Nortman averaged 41-yards on his two punts, but that didn't help his defense from getting steamrolled over.

    Other than that, not much to report from the first quarter on special teams.

Coaching— C-

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    Overall Game Grade- C-

    The defense came to play and didn't allow Josh Freeman and the Bucs to make many big plays down the field. 

    While most expected the Panthers to move the ball effectively, that wasn't the case. The Panthers were unable to catch Tampa Bay from surprise and were unable to run the ball. 

    With a Saints team coming to town that had their own frustrations in Week 1, Rivera will need to prepare his team better this week. 

    Fourth Quarter- C 

    Ron Rivera and his staff weren't able to get enough production out of the offense to win this game, it's as simple as that. 

    Defensively, the Panthers were pretty good for the most part and the run defense was solid. While the unit still has plenty of room to improve, the coaching staff will need to have the offense more prepared when the New Orleans Saints come to town in week two. 

    Rivera was out coached by Greg Schiano in their first meeting, and that led to the Bucs beating the Panther on the field. 

    Third Quarter- B 

    The Panthers made great offensive adjustments at half time and instantly drove the ball down the field 70-yards for the touchdown. 

    It was obvious that the offensive line was protecting Cam Newton better due to adjustments that the coaches made based upon the ways that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were getting pressure in the first half.

    Ron Rivera and the rest of the staff needed to put their playmakers in more favorable positions, something they did in the beginning of the third quarter. 

    Newton has to stop forcing the ball into receivers that are covered if the Panthers hope to win this game, and it falls on the coaching staff to help him realize that. 

    Second Quarter— C-

    Once again, the Panthers were dominated in virtually every facet of the game and can't seem to get anything going offensively.

    Until the Panthers coaching staff finds something that will work on the Bucs defense, this grade won't be getting any higher.   

    First Quarter— D

    The Panthers haven't been able to get anything going on either side of the ball. A lot of that blame has to be given to Ron Rivera and the rest of the Carolina Panthers coaching staff as they are being outplayed and out coached in the first quarter. 

    Things aren't going well for Rivera and his Panthers as they are down ten points early on, but there is still enough time to turn around the game. 

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