Panthers coach Ron Rivera said his team wasn’t ready to play in the first half. And while he shouldered the blame for that as head coach, the players knew they were at fault as well.
Said fullback Mike Tolbert: “I think we came in a little relaxed – coming down to Miami, enjoying the weather, staying on the beach. ... We overestimated ourselves. We had to get a reality check. And the first half was that.”
That can’t happen next Sunday when Carolina plays Tampa Bay at home. While Tampa Bay is only 3-8, the Buccaneers have won three games in a row after starting 0-8 and nearly beat Seattle on the road (which is almost impossible to do) right before this streak began.
The Buccaneers forced five Detroit turnovers on the road Sunday in their latest win, and former N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon had another fine performance. If the Panthers come out as flat against Tampa Bay as they did against Miami, they likely won’t get away with this a second time.
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• Ted Ginn Jr. had a 41-yard punt return that set up an early field goal for Carolina, but in the passing game he really had a bad day. Ginn was targeted a team-high 10 times but only caught three of those for 11 yards. He dropped one deep ball, too, that it appeared he could have caught.
• Graham Gano’s first field-goal attempt was so low he hit one of his own blockers in the helmet, costing Carolina three points. But you’ve got to hand it to Gano, who came right back to make critical field goals of 52 and 46 yards later.
• I thought punter Brad Nortman had a tremendous game, with a long of 72 yards and a net of 46.6 on his seven punts. He switched field position around several times in a game where field position was huge.
• The Panthers sure could use Charles Johnson back. Ryan Tannehill threw for 310 yards and wasn’t pressured enough, getting sacked only three times behind an offensive line that had allowed the most sacks in the NFL entering the game. The Panthers defense missed Johnson a lot but did play well in the second half, when they didn’t allow a point. Carolina remains ranked No. 1 in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 13.7 points per contest.
• Carolina has now beaten every team in the NFL at least once. Miami was the last team remaining on that list. As tight end Greg Olsen said afterward: “One good drive can fix a lot of problems.”
• Statistically, it was one of Cam Newton’s worst games of the season. Getting hit on the first play and biting his tongue hard enough to draw blood certainly didn’t help. Coach Ron Rivera was adamant after the game that Newton did not sustain a concussion on that play.
• Steve Smith said that while last week the primary emotion was exultation, this game felt more like “just a relief. ... Why do we have to make it so interesting? One of those.”