Panthers vs. Buccaneers: 5 Things Learned in Carolina's Win over Tampa Bay
Most people expected a win from Carolina, but a blowout of this proportion wasn't anticipated. What was once a 17-10 lead quickly became a 48-10 runaway until finally ending with a score of 48-16.
Carolina progresses to 6-9 while the Bucs lose nine straight and fall to 4-11, locking in the bottom half of the NFC South for the year.
Cam Newton Can Play Under Pressure
Early in the second quarter with Carolina on their own 8 yard line, Tampa Bay attempted a blitz in order to rattle Cam Newton. Newton responded with a 91 yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lafell. Not only did Cam break Manning's rookie passing yard record, he also recorded the longest touchdown pass in franchise history.
The poise that Newton shows under pressure is a characteristic we find in all great quarterbacks. His ability to stay calm and collect during the blitz and accept the punishment that awaits him shows great character and selflessness.
The particular play mentioned above also displays the explosive cannon that Cam Newton maintains. He was able to flick a 20 yard throw with ease even while being hit.
Cam Newton is able to do most everything he pleases against defenses. If wants to run the option, he'll juke and dodge his way for a first down. If he wants to throw the long ball, he'll hit veteran Steve Smith for 30 yards. Look for big things from this rookie going forward.
The Carolina Defense Can Bring Pressure
In their win over Houston, Carolina failed to pressure T.J. Yates sufficiently. He had plenty of time in the pocket to attempt passes and scout the defense.
Even though the Panthers secured the upset, the lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback was a glaring problem that needed to be addressed immediately.
This wasn't the case in their win over Tampa Bay, however. Josh Freeman constantly had troubles making plays and was forced to make quick, risky throws. Throughout the game, Freeman struggled to gain first downs against the Carolina coverage.
For a defense that has been plagued with injuries, Carolina played well and proved that it could at least pressure the quarterback.
Brandon LaFell is the Number 2 Receiver
During the beginning of the season, rookie Cam Newton recorded the majority of his passes to veteran Steve Smith. Once this pattern was observed, defenses began shutting down Smith with double coverage. This opened up major opportunities for secondary receivers like Legedu Naanee and Brandon LaFell.
Even though he finished in Houston without a reception, Brandon LaFell has made his presence known in this hot Carolina offense. He is constantly being targeted for big plays and often connects for big yardage, like in the 91 yard touchdown against Tampa Bay.
LaFell will only grow throughout his career and until Carolina brings in another primary receiver, look for him to make a good number of the catches on this offense.
The Running Game Is Carolina's Best Asset
Rob Chudzinski and Cam Newton have created an offense that has kept defensive coordinators up at night. In particular, the running game.
All season long Carolina has orchestrated from a college-style playbook. They've incorporated more option and trick plays than any other offense in the NFL. The ability to do almost anything with their rushing game has led to the nicknamed "Three-Headed Monster".
This monster is a beast composed of quarterback Cam Newton and two running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The three of them together create an offensive machine capable of confusing defenses and scoring touchdowns.
This potential was shown heavily in Carolina's second victory over Tampa Bay. DeAngelo punched in two, Jonathan Stewart scored one and Cam Newton drove downfield for a 49 yard rushing touchdown himself.
Cam Newton's ability to throw the long ball may soon be overshadowed by his ability to create touchdowns on the ground.
Cam Newton Is Well Protected
Carolina has a great composition of protection among their offensive line. Week after week, Cam Newton is given the time to analyze and adjust accordingly to defenses. This level of protection is a key factor in why he has succeeded so much this season.
Tampa Bay could hardly find a hole in the offensive line during their defeat on Christmas Eve. Cam Newton was given ample time to find receivers as well as holes for the running game.
In order to keep the offensive line updated, Carolina should look to draft someone like Matt Kalil during the offseason.