Football seasons always begin with optimism, and a tough loss in an opener usually leads to a very disappointed fanbase. The Carolina Panthers falling at Tampa Bay by a score of 16-10 fits this description perfectly. However, before fans panic entirely, there are some insights to be found in the game.
- The Buccaneers came out with a strong gameplan, centered on disrupting the Panthers offensive line by taking advantage of raw rookie left guard Amini Silatolu and overmatched right guard Geoff Hangartner. DT Gerald McCoy, absent in the Panthers victories last season, was moved around the line and brought pressure on almost every snap. On offense, the Bucs deployed new rookie running back David Martin for repetitive four and five yard gains. While he rarely broke free for long runs, it was enough to move the chains and establish play action passes.
- The Panthers attempted to mitigate the constant pass rush with max protection in the second half, but this forced them to utilize longer-developing plays that left Cam Newton throwing deep into coverage. This resulted in both of his interceptions, although his curious habit of ignoring his checkdown passes much of the game contributed to his struggles. Unfortunately, the complete absence of a running game forced the offense entirely into the young quarterback's hands.
- Jonathan Stewart may have been missed more than anyone could have imagined, as the constant pressure up the middle of the offense left DeAngelo to attempt long cutbacks for minimal yardage. Tolbert was strangely absent from the running gameplan, so the Panthers were unable to counteract the pressure with Stewart's patented power running.
- Special teams continues to be a problem, particularly when the protection broke down and allowed a stuffed Nortman punt at a crucial point in the game. Joe Adams also had a mixed game, as he broke off a couple of good returns with a muff and a near muff.
- One of the few positives to take away from this game is that, despite the near-total domination of time of possession, the Panthers were within a few plays of winning a road opener under harsh weather conditions and after having been outplayed for the majority of the game. The coaching staff now has a complete game to disassemble how opposing defenses will attack the Panthers all season, and it will be up to them and the team to overcome the weaknesses the Bucs were able to exploit.