In a game where Carolina scored at will in the first half and then let Tampa Bay all the way back into the game before ultimately pulling out a 42-28 victory, here are a few things that caught my eye as the Panthers rolled to a 6-2 record at the season’s midpoint:
▪ The Panthers have never used reverses as effectively as they have this year, even when they had a burner like Steve Smith in his prime. Carolina had two runs of 30-plus yards in the first half from its wide receivers – a 33-yard touchdown from Curtis Samuel and a 32-yarder from rookie DJ Moore.
▪ Carolina’s defense had some nice moments, but getting off the field on third-and-long was a major problem Sunday. The Panthers allowed first downs on both third-and-17 and third-and-15, helping Ryan Fitzpatrick throw four TD passes.
▪ I think football should make a rule that a ball that hits the goalpost anywhere is still live if it stays in the field of play, sort of like a puck hitting the boards in hockey. You could have some great runbacks of missed field goals that way, and Captain Munnerlyn would have had an interception of a Fitzpatrick throwaway.
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▪ Mario Addison (three sacks) looked like one of the best pass rushers in the NFL at times again Sunday.
▪ James Bradberry did a heck of a job on Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans, who didn’t get his first catch until the third quarter and was 0-for-6 on targets at one point.
▪ Greg Olsen’s 17-yard, one-handed, bat-it-to-himself touchdown catch had to be one of the five best he’s ever made for Carolina.
▪ The biggest blown lead the Panthers ever had in a loss was a 21-pointer against Washington in 1999, according to Pro Football Reference. In 2015, the Panthers led the New York Giants 35-7 before allowing New York to come all the way back to 35-all before Graham Gano hit a game-winning field goal. This time Carolina didn’t let it get quite that far, but Panthers fans did have some anxious moments midway through the game while the Buccaneers scored 21 straight points to pull within 35-28.
▪ Donte Jackson is a really interesting player. The rookie cornerback had his fourth interception of the season in the fourth quarter. On another play, he managed to pick up both a defensive holding and a pass interference penalty on the same play. Still, four picks in half a season?!
▪ Carolina’s clock and timeout management in the second half left a lot to be desired.