Instant analysis from the Carolina Panthers’ 17-3 win at Tampa Bay.
They come in bunches.
The Panthers went six games without an interception, the longest such stretch in team history. Defensive players and coordinator Steve Wilks kept saying they were close.
That day came Sunday, when safety Mike Adams and linebacker Luke Kuechly – back after missing a week with a concussion – picked off Bucs QB Jameis Winston. Adams’ INT was caused by Captain Munnerlyn’s hit on Winston’s arm and set up a TD drive that sealed the game.
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The Panthers finished with three takeaways, and have won 88 percent of their games under Ron Rivera when winning the turnover battle. Julius Peppers stripped Winston in the first half on a sack, and safety Kurt Coleman recovered the fumble.
Coleman and Kuechly combined for 17 tackles in their return from injuries.
Good things happen when you take a few deep shots.
Panthers QB Cam Newton had not been throwing deep much as he came back from shoulder surgery.
But that changed Sunday.
Newton aired out three long passes to Devin Funchess and another one to rookie Curtis Samuel, all of which were incomplete. But Newton stuck with it, and found Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone for the 25-yard dagger score in the fourth quarter.
Newton has too strong an arm for Mike Shula not to use.
Michael Palardy helped win swing field position.
The Panthers’ left-footed punter doesn’t get a lot of publicity, but he had a big day against the Bucs.
Palardy averaged 50.4 yards on his seven punts, and put four inside the 20. Palardy’s most timely punt came early in the fourth quarter when the Panthers were hanging on to a 10-3 lead.
His high-hanging punt bounced and was downed at the 3. The Bucs escaped the hole with a couple of Winston completions before Adams’ interception.