banner

NFL

more stats

NFL Preview - Tampa Bay (5-4) at Carolina (2-7)



By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope to remain players in the postseason race and notch their longest winning streak in four years on Sunday as they battle the division rival Carolina Panthers for the second time this year.

Playing under first-year head coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs have ripped off three straight wins to move above .500 at 5-4 and into second place in the NFC South. However, that is still a distant three games behind the first-place Atlanta Falcons.

Tampa Bay has averaged 37.3 points per game over its three-game winning streak and is coming off a 34-24 victory over the San Diego Chargers last weekend. The Buccaneers scored in all three phases, getting a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Josh Freeman, an 83-yard pick-six by rookie cornerback Leonard Johnson and a 29-yard return for a score by linebacker Adam Hayward following a blocked punt.

The Bucs survived 337 passing yards and three touchdowns by San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, picking him off twice while notching two sacks.

"Today we played team football. We held each other up, and it is critical against a good football team," Schiano said. "We ran into Philip Rivers, he's been as hot as a fire cracker the last two games. We did just enough to find a win. It's a good feeling."

An even better feeling would be for Tampa Bay to post its first four-game winning streak since a perfect November during the 2008 campaign.

The Bucs would love to duplicate their 16-10 season-opening win at home over the Panthers as they held Carolina to just 10 yards rushing. That matched the lowest total yards allowed on the ground in team history and Tampa Bay helped ice the win by picking off Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on back-to-back drives beginning late in the third quarter.

Tampa Bay's win came after it lost both of its contests last season to Carolina, which leads the all-time series 14-10 with a 7-5 advantage at home.

The Panthers, though, enter this game just 2-7 and failed to follow up a big win over the Washington Redskins, falling last Sunday by a 36-14 margin to the Denver Broncos.

Like Tampa Bay last weekend, Denver found a variety of ways to score versus Carolina. The Broncos scored a pair of touchdowns on offense, returned a punt 76 yards for a score and also got an interception returned 40 yards for a touchdown. That was enough to overshadow Newton's two touchdown passes to tight end Greg Olson.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera stressed after the loss that inconsistency has plagued his club all year long.

"Some of us have to make plays when you get the opportunities. I think that is a big part of it," he said. "If you look at it you'll see that we missed some opportunities. We missed some blocks. You have to be able to protect the offensive line. When the ball is thrown, you have to catch it. You have to make good decisions when you go throw it. Defensively we were really good on third down, but you can't give up a big play."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Special teams could play a big factor in this contest, which would favor the Buccaneers.

After all, the Panthers fired special teams coordinator Brian Murphy on Monday because of what Rivera said were "philosophical differences and productivity" and it is unfortunate that the punt return for a score by Denver's Trindon Holliday may have been the final nail given as the play should not have even counted. Replays showed that Holliday's was in fact a touchback in favor of Carolina after the returner tossing the ball out of his hands in early celebration before crossing the goal line.

The NFL said in a statement on Monday that the play should have been reviewed by referee Alberto Riveron and overturned.

That doesn't help the Panthers, who tabbed assistant special teams coach Richard Rodgers to replace Murphy.

"I told coach Rodgers what I wanted," Rivera said. "I wanted things simplified. I wanted to come back to fundamental basics and that's the direction we're going to head right now."

For the Bucs, they used the play of their special teams to turn the momentum of their game and Schiano would like for the unit to continue to be aggressive.

"We've done some good things on special teams and then we've done some things that aren't so good. That's where we need consistency on our special teams. That will be something that if that can come and we can be consistent, that can win us some games here," Schiano.

Hayward scooped up the blocked punt by linebacker Dekoda Watson for the score and he will see a bigger role this weekend due to the loss of Quincy Black, who was placed on injured reserve this week following a neck injury versus the Chargers that saw him carted off the field and taken to a local hospital.

The 28-year-old had 32 tackles this year and while Hayward will likely see an increase in playing time, others like Watson and rookie Najee Goode will need to be ready as well.

"He's a professional. He works very hard and stays up to speed on all three linebacker positions," Schiano said of Hayward, a special teams captain. "That's why I say we'll have some flexibility. Guys will move around so it won't be just exclusive Adam for Quincy."

For his part, Hayward is ready to contribute.

"I've got to step in and be that starter and show people that this defense is not going to skip a heartbeat. The only thing we can do is go up and play better," he said.

Hayward and his defense will look to keep Carolina's 15th-ranked run defense in check and is giving up only 80.1 yards per game on the ground, tops in the league.

Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams finished with minus-1 yard on six carries in the Week 1 meeting, which fellow back Jonathan Stewart missed due to injury, and Newton had four yards on five carries.

Playing from behind versus the Broncos, Carolina ran for just 52 yards. Stewart led the club with 31 yards on eight carries, while Williams had six on six attempts.

Newton ran for seven yards on four carries and was under pressure throughout the game. He was sacked seven times, once for a safety. Carolina's offensive line has struggled since Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil landed on injured reserve due to a foot injury and the Panthers this week signed Jeremy Bridges, who started 28 games for Carolina from 2006-08.

"I feel pretty confident he's going to come in do some of the things we need him to do for us," Rivera said of Bridges. "I don't ready enough to start, but ready enough to be ready just in case."

Many of Carolina's offensive players praised the defense for its effort last weekend and ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy were part of that. Johnson has 8 1/2 sacks after getting one versus the Broncos and also forced a fumble, as did Hardy.

The duo should have their eyes on Bucs running back Doug Martin, who following up his 251-yard, four-touchdown explosion in a win over the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 4 with over 100 yards of total offense against the Chargers. The 2012 first-round pick had 68 yards on 19 carries and caught another three balls for 51 yards.

Freeman, meanwhile, is the first Buccaneers quarterback to throw at least two touchdown passes in five straight games since Brad Johnson from Nov. 3-Dec. 8 during the 2002 season.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Many Panthers admitted how embarrassed they were following last week's loss and Rivera may need to start shaking things up to get his club on a positive path.

First and foremost will be preventing Tampa Bay's middle-of-the-road offense from churning out a number of big plays and that means containing Martin and wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

Carolina will need to test Tampa Bay's secondary and for whatever maturity Newton may seem to be lacking, he is still full of confidence. He should lean on his new top target Olsen and turn veteran Steve Smith loose in a much- needed win.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Panthers 23, Buccaneers 20

11/15 12:59:34 ET

Other Stories

  • Sun Bowl: Duke vs. Arizona State

    Saturday at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Teams TBD

    Sunday at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Panthers vs. Falcons

    Sunday at 1:00 pm on FOX50

  • NFL: Oakland at Denver

    Sunday at 4:25 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Denver at Cincinnati

    Tonight at 9:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • CBB: Louisiana Tech at NC State

    Tomorrow at 7:00 pm on WRAL-FM

  • NHL: Hurricanes at Devils

    Tomorrow at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. Rice

    Wednesday at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
DEN
7:00pm Tonight
ECU
FAM
 
8:00pm Tonight
JST
NCCU
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
DEN
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
POR
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
TOR
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
UTA
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
ATL
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
LAC
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
SAC
2nd
MEM 24
BYU 28
 
2nd
BRAD 42
ARKLR 55
 
2nd
CCST 48
BRO 65
 
2nd
NW 49
ILLCH 40
 
2nd
FSU 46
STET 38
 
2nd
GWU 43
OHIO 34
 
1st
KNST 29
ELON 25
 
3:00pm Today
ARKPB
SUTAH
 
4:00pm Today
PSU
DART
4:30pm Today
COL
DEP
4:30pm Today
UCI
UWGB
 
5:00pm Tonight
PORT
L
 
5:30pm Tonight
ABCHRIST
SCST
 
6:00pm Tonight
PURD
GWEBB
 
6:00pm Tonight
NKENTUCKY
IDAHO
 
6:00pm Tonight
FORD
MAN
6:00pm Tonight
OSU
UMO
6:00pm Tonight
MSU
CITA
6:00pm Tonight
GSOUT
TRUETT
 
7:00pm Tonight
WMICH
ALAAM
 
7:00pm Tonight
MNTER
BING
 
7:00pm Tonight
WAKE
BUCK
 
7:00pm Tonight
SYR
COL
 
7:00pm Tonight
RMU
DEL
 
7:00pm Tonight
VCU
ETST
7:00pm Tonight
FATL
EKENT
7:00pm Tonight
GTDNS
FAIR
 
7:00pm Tonight
ECU
FAM
 
7:00pm Tonight
ILLST
MAST
 
7:00pm Tonight
TEMPL
KU
7:00pm Tonight
PRIN
LIB
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNH
LIU
 
7:00pm Tonight
BONA
MDES
 
7:00pm Tonight
TENN
MERC
7:00pm Tonight
JMU
NORST
 
7:00pm Tonight
ALCOR
NDST
 
7:00pm Tonight
ND
NILL
7:00pm Tonight
CLEM
OU
7:00pm Tonight
UCF
SELA
 
7:00pm Tonight
NAVY
TOWS
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUT
TENNM
7:00pm Tonight
VT
VMI
7:00pm Tonight
ODU
WMARY
7:05pm Tonight
IND
NO
 
7:30pm Tonight
UCONN
CLMB
7:30pm Tonight
STJ
LBSU
7:30pm Tonight
WVU
WOFF
8:00pm Tonight
MCNST
CMICH
 
8:00pm Tonight
COLST
CSOU
 
8:00pm Tonight
SIUE
CHIST
 
8:00pm Tonight
MICH
COPST
 
8:00pm Tonight
MINN
FUR
8:00pm Tonight
TCU
GRAM
 
8:00pm Tonight
TULSA
INCWORD
 
8:00pm Tonight
TTU
LOYC
8:00pm Tonight
JST
NCCU
 
8:00pm Tonight
IOWA
UNF
 
8:00pm Tonight
VANDY
PENN
8:00pm Tonight
LAM
RICE
 
8:00pm Tonight
MISS
SEMIZ
8:00pm Tonight
BAY
SOUTH
 
8:00pm Tonight
CHAT
UAB
8:00pm Tonight
OKLA
WEBER
8:05pm Tonight
SILL
MURST
 
8:05pm Tonight
MIZST
ORU
 
8:05pm Tonight
DRAK
SIMPSON
 
8:05pm Tonight
UMKC
TENT
 
9:00pm Tonight
LSU
COC
9:00pm Tonight
AFA
JVST
9:00pm Tonight
UTEP
KSU
 
9:00pm Tonight
PROV
MIAMI
9:00pm Tonight
ARK
UWMIL
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
NDAK
9:00pm Tonight
GAELS
NE
 
9:00pm Tonight
NMST
NNM
 
9:00pm Tonight
NCOL
UCD
 
9:00pm Tonight
OREG
UCSB
9:00pm Tonight
CAL
WISC
9:05pm Tonight
EWASH
LCST
 
9:05pm Tonight
PORST
WALLA
 
10:00pm Tonight
NEV
MARS
10:00pm Tonight
CSFU
TAMCC
 
10:30pm Tonight
HOU
BSU
11:00pm Tonight
WICHS
LMU
11:00pm Tonight
WASH
TULA
11:00pm Tonight
SDST
UCR
7:00pm Tonight
CLB
NAS
7:00pm Tonight
WAS
OTT
7:30pm Tonight
FLA
PIT
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
ARI
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
SJS
10:30pm Tonight
LOS
CAL
8:30pm Tonight
CIN
DEN