Panthers Slip Up v. Bucs, Fall to 0-2

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers invaded Bank of America Stadium and gave the Carolina Panthers a reminder in the importance of fielding a franchise quarterback. John Fox apparently got the message, as Jimmy Clausen made his second appearance in as many games as the Panthers fell, 20-7.

Josh Freeman didn't post eye-popping numbers. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns and ran four times for 43 yards. However, it was obvious he was in complete control of the game as he made smart decisions and clutch plays.

Freeman led a turnover-free effort by the Buccaneers while the Panthers turned the ball over three times. Matt Moore threw an interception and lost a fumble before being pulled, while Jimmy Clausen threw a late interception when the game was already out of hand.

Carolina's QBs didn't get much help from their receivers, although Steve Smith (six catches for 66 yards and a TD) and Dante Rosario (three catches, 47 yards) enjoyed nice outings. Mike Goodson also made a couple nice plays out of the backfield -- perhaps enough to earn an extended role -- but no other playmakers earned their game checks.

The Carolina Panthers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Streeter Lecka/Getty
Ron Meeks' defense played better this week, at least from a statistical standpoint. The Buccaneers gained just 273 yards of total offense (compared to 278 for the Panthers) and finished with only 14 total first downs (Carolina had 16).

The big concern is a lack of a pass rush. The Panthers -- after averaging more than five sacks per game during the preseason -- were held without a sack on Sunday and now have just one sack through two regular-season games.

Another issue is the defense giving up too many big plays. That was especially evident on Tampa Bay's go-ahead scoring drive late in the first half when the Buccaneers picked up 75 yards in a two-play stretch. Freeman scrambled on a broken play on third-and-17 only to find Kellen Winslow for a 40-yard gain down the right sideline. One play later, Freeman hit rookie Mike Williams for a 35-yard TD.

Williams broke several sloppy tackles on the scoring play, prompting the hometown fans to boo. It was not the first time Panther Nation got restless. There were more grumbles than cheers in the second half, at least until Clausen replaced Moore with 10 minutes remaining.

By then, it was already too late.

Cat Quicks

--Jonathan Stewart ran eight times for 43 yards. He now has just 13 rushing attempts through two games as he continues to reestablish himself in the rotation. His backfield mate, DeAngelo Williams, ran 17 times for 54 yards against the Buccaneers.

--LB James Anderson finished with 10 total tackles for the second consecutive week. Jon Beason finished second on the team with nine total tackles and also made a nice play on special teams, shielding a Buccaneers gunner to force a touchback.

--Goodson had a kickoff return of 43 yards early in the fourth quarter, but averaged less than 10 yards on his other three returns.

--Brandon LaFell (hamstring), Tyler Brayton (ankle) and Louis Leonard (elbow) were all inactive. Rookie David Gettis started at receiver opposite of Steve Smith, while fellow rookie Armanti Edwards remained on the inactive list. Gettis finished with two catches for 18 yards. Dwayne Jarrett played but did not have a catch.

What are Panthers fans saying about Sunday's loss? See in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.

Panther Insider Top Stories