Final Score: 16-10 Tampa Bay. Ron Rivera is an Unabashed Moron.
I 100% mean that too. Ron Rivera…. What’s your issue? Oh what, you didn’t have Jonathan Stewart so you decided, “Ehh, rushing the ball is for the birds. We’re Panthers. Panthers aren’t birds. Clearly running isn’t for us.” I sincerely believe those thoughts inhibited the area where most humans have brains. Seven rushes from Carolina running backs. SEVEN! Carolina’s leading rushers on the day: WR Kealoha Pilates and QB Cam Newton with a COMBINED NINE yards on SIX carries. Did you even read my preview, Ron? No? Well, you should have. Because your team’s 13 total carries were 11 less than Tampa Bay’s ROOKIE got in his first game as a pro. You know what his team did? WIN THE GAME. WITH 16 TOTAL POINTS. The fact that you still have a job today is beyond baffling with the offense you continue to run. It didn’t work last year, Ron. Why you think it will this year is beyond me.
Now I’m far from down with Ron Rivera but I should commend the Bucs for snapping their 1o game losing streak and getting Greg Schiano his first win in the pros. *Golf clap* Josh Freeman didn’t wow anyone with his performance against a lackluster Panthers’ secondary but he also did not turn the ball over which is a good sign. Freeman finished the day going 16/24 for 138 yards and one touchdown. Good enough to win this game, but when he goes up against a team with even a mediocre coaching staff that will not be enough to earn a victory. Rookie RB Doug Martin got 24 carries in his debut and racked up 95 yards. Martin also caught four passes for 23 yards. If Martin can maintain this production, the Bucs may have themselves a potent offense when Freeman starts to air it out more.
Because Freeman does have the pieces around him. Mike Williams, who experienced a tremendous sophomore slump in 2011, caught only two balls for 12 yards but he did find the endzone to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead in the first. Vincent Jackson, who the Bucs signed in the offseason to become their number one receiver, led the team with 47 yards on four receptions. Hard to fault V-Jax for only having 47 yards when it still accounted for 1/3 of the Buc’s total receiving yards. Between Williams and Jackson in the passing game, and Martin running the rock, the success of the Buccaneers really lies on Freeman’s shoulders heading forward. He has the pieces around him, time to see what he can do.
Back to Rivera… What is wrong with you? Your defense allowed 138 passing yards. Total. That’s it. Gave up than 300 yards of total offense. Any time your defense is putting up those types of statistics, especially for a divisional game, you should never lose. EVER. Steve Smith eclipsed 100 yards receiving but couldn’t find the endzone. Brandon LaFell caught three passes for 65 yards and did manage to get into the endzone. Hell, even Greg Olsen and Louis Murphy racked up over 50 yards each through the air. Cam Newton threw for 303 yards on 33 attempts. Sure, he had two picks, but that tends to happen when you throw the ball 90% of the time.
DeAngelo Williams got six attempts for -1 yards. The sad thing is, his longest rush was seven yards. Why, especially when Stewart is out, you are only handing the ball to your best running back SIX times is a foreign concept to me. Well, that’s probably because I don’t go into a game thinking, “Gee, what’s the easiest way to ensure I lose this game.” Because that had to be Rivera’s thought process before Sunday’s match. Mike Tolbert, who is more of a bowling ball than he is a running back, got one carry for two yards. Seven carries for Carolina’s running backs. SEVEN. Yes I’m going to keep pointing it out, because I cannot believe that’s what actually happened. Is Williams a top-10 back in the league. No, he is not. But is he better than Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, and Stephen Ridley? Conventional wisdom would say yes. All three of those backs GROSSLY outperformed Williams on Sunday and I’m not even sure it was Williams’ fault. As a matter of fact, I know it wasn’t his fault because he wasn’t even given the chance.
Freeman threw 24 passes compared to Newton’s 33. Say you shave off seven of those passes and handed it to Williams instead. Sure, maybe he gets only 25 yards on the day. Maybe he breaks one for a 40 yard gain. Or maybe, just maybe, Newton doesn’t throw two interceptions because the defense doesn’t expect a pass every down. Ever think of that Rivera? Rivera seems like someone trying to play the 2004 version of Madden. You know, the one with Mike Vick on the cover (that was before he chopped the braids and his mother asked us to call him Michael). 2004 was before everyone was playing online so there was little strategy when playing against your friends or the computer. You played with the Falcons, would run a bootleg and either hit Alge Crumpler across the middle, Brian Finneran deep, or you tucked it and ran for 80 yards to the house. Literally unstoppable… in 2004. It’s 2012. Madden has changed drastically since Vick was on the cover in ’04. Rivera apparently never got the memo.
And he’s going to have to figure it out soon. Before the Panthers Week 6 bye, they host the Saints and the Giants back to back before going on the road to face Atlanta. Then they come back to square off against the Seahawks. The Saints are a tough get for any team, luckily for Carolina it’s their home opener so maybe they’ll be inspired to put up more than 10 points against a weak defense. Even if they get to .500, the Giants aren’t going to roll over and neither are the Falcons. By Week 5, the Seahawks team who just lost a winnable game against the Cardinals will have most of the kinks worked out. I’m not going to say the Panthers season is over after one loss, but they certainly didn’t do themselves any favors by giving this one away.
Meanwhile, the undefeated Buccaneers road gets much tougher before their Week 5 bye. They travel to the Medowlands to take on the Giants this Sunday before flying across the country to play at Dallas. Then they come back to Tampa Bay where they face the Redskins who have already shown they’re more than able of beating a good NFC South team on the road. If the Bucs can go 1-2 over these next three weeks and go into their bye at .500, they should be happy. If they can do better than that, they’re playing with the house’s money at that point. And if they go 0-3 against this upcoming schedule, would anyone blame them? I wouldn’t. Hell, I thought they were going to start 0-4. Good for you, Tampa Bay!