A breakdown in communication caused one of the most critical Carolina mistakes against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Brad Nortmans blocked punt in the early fourth quarter that eventually led to a Bucs field goal was caused by a snap that came before the Panthers special teams unit had a chance to set its protection.
Coach Ron Rivera said safety Haruki Nakamura is the point man for the team during punts. He makes the calls and checks as the team prepares to punt the ball.
But this time, with the team down 13-7 and stymied at the Bucs 48 with more than 11 minutes to play, not everyone got the call.
We were communicating that the guy was coming in, were giving a hot call, Nakamura said. We know that we need to make an adjustment. (Long snapper JJ Jansen) thought it was set. So there was just so much communication and JJ happened to hear the wrong thing and unfortunately thats what it led to.
We were trying to make a check but we didnt have an opportunity to. We had not made a set call yet. Thats not on JJ, hes thinking, Lets get the ball out fast, lets get it to the punter so he can kick it. Its just a number of things that went wrong. It wasnt just one person or one thing or something they did.
Aqib Talib came off the left essentially untouched and was able to stuff Nortmans punt. The Bucs recovered at their 42. The field goal that resulted gave Tampa Bay a 16-7 lead.
Any time they move as much as they do, communication is of the utmost importance, Jansen said Sunday after the game. So well have to get it all ironed out.
STEWART UPDATE: Rivera said the absence of star running back Jonathan Stewart hurt the Panthers run game, which tied a franchise-low with 10 rushing yards against the Bucs.
The team did not practice Monday, but Rivera said he and his staff will continue monitoring Stewart this week.
Hes getting his treatment. Well see how he is, Rivera said. Wed like to get him on the field as soon as we can. Hes a big part of what we want to do as an offense. Without him, obviously we struggled.
Stewart hasnt played since late in the second quarter of the Panthers third preseason game against the New York Jets, when he sprained his ankle.
SCHEDULE CHANGE: The Panthers brushed off the thought that last weeks schedule change had anything to do with the teams slow start against Tampa Bay.
Rivera had long said he would not allow the team to use that as an excuse. He said his team just needed to make plays, notably at the start of the game.
As far as what we did in practice and our preparation and how hard we worked, it was no different than if we would have been here (at home), starting center Ryan Kalil said. In some regards, I think it was less distracting.
INACTIVE THOMAS: When inactive players were announced just before kickoff, second-year defensive end Thomas Keiser was included. The Stanford product had impressed with four sacks in the preseason, but his pass rushing ability was not enough to get him on the active squad.
Its numbers and for what we do on special teams, Rivera said. We decided to go with an extra linebacker, a guy that plays four phases as opposed to Thomas really only being a two-phase guy. Well look at it as we go along through the season and try to get Thomas more and more involved with our special teams. If we can get him to be a four-phase guy, then well have to make decisions.
Last year, Keiser stayed on the Panthers practice squad before getting called up. In eight games, he had four sacks, tied for second-most on the team.
FIELD DEDICATION: The Panthers, along with Lowes and the NFL, teamed up for a $300,000 renovation to one of Charlottes oldest football fields, which is set for a rededication ceremony Tuesday.
The Derita Athletic Associations Chesire Field in north Charlotte received a newly sodded football field with irrigation system, field lighting, a refurbished press box and concession stand, and new scoreboard, among other improvements.
The athletic association primarily serves children from low-income families, and funding for the project was provided by Carolina Panthers Charities, Lowes and the NFL Youth Football Fund.
The 20-minute dedication is slated to begin at 6 p.m., and Panthers founder and owner Jerry Richardson is expected to attend.
Scott Fowler and Joseph Person contributed