TAMPA, Fla. Linebacker Luke Kuechly played in his first NFL regular-season game Sunday, but hes been around football long enough to know a slow start like the Panthers had against Tampa Bay leads to trouble.
The Panthers defense allowed the Bucs to march 80 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown on their first possession, twice converting third downs into first downs on their way to a 7-0 lead.
The Bucs then tacked on field goals on their next two possessions for a 13-0 lead.
We were just flat. We didnt come out with the energy we needed to, Kuechly said.
You could see a difference in the second half in how we came out. We got a quick out, and thats how the first half needed to be. It cant be like youre going to feel it out and get a feel for the tempo of the game. We have to set the tempo.
In every game, you have to set the tempo and make the other team play off you. We didnt do a good job of doing that.
The Panthers limited Tampa Bay to 87 yards of offense in the second half.
We know what we can do and how well we can play, Kuechly said. We just have to get out there and do it. We cant wait until were down 13 and say, gee, weve got to start playing. We have to set the tempo now.
No excuses: Tight end Greg Olsen had an idea for what the Panthers could do with their season-opening loss.
Throw away a lot of it, he said.
Olsen caught six passes for 56 yards but was frustrated by the offenses inability to generate consistency and points against Tampa Bay.
Our defense did an unbelievable job of keeping us in the game and giving us short fields, Olsen said.
Its just bad what can you say? You cant score 10 points and expect to win in the NFL.
Olsen said the Panthers knew theyd see some new things from the Bucs defense because of the new coaching staff, but there was nothing that caught them totally off guard.
There are always some surprises with a new staff but we had some new wrinkles, too. We didnt execute well. The first series, I had a big drop that stalled us out, he said.
It seemed like any time we got something going, we had a self-inflicted issue that stalled us out.
Collision course: Captain Munnerlyn was flagged for fair catch interference in the first quarter when he slammed into Tampa Bays Sammie Stroughter, who was running up to field a short punt.
Munnerlyn knew he had made a mistake but felt it was nearly unavoidable because of how Stroughter ran into him trying to field the punt.
Me being a punt returner, I know guys can do that, Munnerlyn said. When I was running, I was like oh, no. I knew I was running too fast and I couldnt slow down.
I tried to jump out of his way. Returners are taught if they run into you, its a penalty. The guy did a great job of running into me. I was just trying not to be called for a personal foul. There would have been a fine for that.
Adding on: When Steve Smith made a 31-yard catch in the second quarter, it was his 700th career reception, adding to his franchise-leading total. It was also the 76th consecutive game in which Smith has caught a pass, dating to the season finale in 2006.
On the side: The Panthers inactives were quarterback Jimmy Clausen, safety D.J. Campbell, running back Jonathan Stewart, offensive lineman Jeff Byers, tackle Bruce Campbell, defensive tackle Sione Fua and defensive end Thomas Keiser.
The Bucs had receiver Arrelious Benn, cornerbacks Myron Lewis, Anthony Gaiter and E.J. Biggers, linebacker Najee Goode, tackle Jamon Meredith and defensive end Wallace Gilberry on the inactive list.
By the numbers
10 Total rushing yards by the Panthers, tying a team record for the fewest in a game (vs. New Orleans in 2000).
-1 Yards rushing for tailback DeAngelo Williams on six carries.
2 Third-down conversions, in 10 attempts, for the Panthers.
83.3 Cam Newtons quarterback rating.
95.5 Josh Freemans quarterback rating.
You know, fountain drinks are free. When you go to a nine, fine dining, five-course restaurant, what do you order with your meal? Wine. And whats the best wine? Aged wine. Steve Smith, on getting better with age.
I think it was 37 or 38 minutes of time possession. Thats critical when you keep No. 1 (Cam Newton) off the field. The best way to defend him is not to have to defend him. Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano.
Anytime you lose, you have to be more critical of yourself and what we did in the first half, in particularly in the first quarter. The (first) three series I think they got points on. I think thats unacceptable. Panthers linebacker Jon Beason.
Ive never blocked a punt before in my life. I just came down free. We kind of knew how they were trying to block us and (special teams coach Bob Ligahesky) schemed it up perfectly. Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talik.