Expect Panthers to get after young QB
Blitzing more than they usually do, the Panthers sacked Washington's JASON CAMPBELL five times last week. The Buccaneers' JOSH JOHNSON, while more mobile than Campbell, is starting his third career game and has a crew of unreliable receivers who dropped at least five passes last week against the Eagles. That might make Johnson pretty jittery, and he's already been sacked six times this season.
The Panthers' punt-defense team plagued them over their first three games. That changed against Washington, when Carolina held the Redskins to an average of 1.0 yard per return. It also included a game-changing play in which Carolina's QUINTON TEAL blocked Washington's BYRON WESTBROOK into returner ANTWAAN RANDLE EL. Combine that with JOHN KASAY'S perfect season so far (he's four-for-four on field goals) and RHYS LLOYD'S three touchbacks against the Redskins, and those teams are looking more special.
Bucs offer chance to continue mini-trend
The Panthers appeared to be getting back to what they do best offensively last week, when their running game began to wear down the Redskins in the fourth quarter. The Bucs are 28th in the league in run defense (152.6 yards per game) and Carolina's DEANGELO WILLIAMS ran for a franchise-record 186 yards and JONATHAN STEWART added 115 the last time they played.
David Scott's Panthers trivia
1. Who did Muhsin Muhammad catch the first touchdown pass of his career from?
2. What subject did defensive tackle Nick Hayden major in at Wisconsin?
3. Which high school in North Carolina has produced two NFL fullbacks?
4. Who was the player the Raiders chose when they acquired a first-round pick for sending coach Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay in 2003?
5. What's the most famous drawing ever done by Panthers linebacker James Anderson?
1. Kerry Collins (Oct..13, 1996, 54 yards).
2. Agricultural journalism.
3. Ledford High in Thomasville (the Panthers' Brad Hoover, the New York Giants' Madison Hedgecock).
4. Defensive end Tyler Brayton, who now plays for the Panthers.
5. He designed a T-shirt logo for his alma mater of Deep Creek High in Chesapeake, Va. (the Hornets).
-9 Turnover ratio, worst in the league.
7 Touchbacks by kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd (had 30 last season).
10-7 Record vs. Tampa Bay.
27.2 Reduction in average yards per-game run defense (182.7 to 155.5) after allowing Redskins 74 last week.
33 Solo tackles by linebacker Thomas Davis, tied for sixth in the NFL.
6.0 Sacks last season by defensive end Gaines Adams (Clemson), most among rookies (he's got 1.0 this season).
9 Consecutive regular-season losses.
33 Percent of field goals made (two-of-six) by former kicker Mike Nugent, who was cut last week after missing two in a three-point loss to Washington on Oct..4.
72.3 Opponents' passer rating since 1996, lowest in the NFL over that time.
200 Yards receiving by Antonio Bryant against the Panthers last season, second highest total in team history.
Scott Fowler observations
If the Panthers can't gain 100 yards rushing against Tampa Bay today, then their run game is really in trouble. Tampa Bay does not have a good run defense and by all rights Carolina should be able to beat them up a little.
But Carolina needs a breakout game from DEANGELO WILLIAMS to loosen everything else up. Neutralizing Bucs middle linebacker BARRETT RUUD will also be a key.
Expect at least one no-name Panther to make a huge play today against Tampa Bay and possibly more. This is the sort of game where that happens - Tampa Bay is bad enough to present a lot of opportunities in that regard.
The Panthers have fallen a long way since their 12-4 regular season in 2008, that's for sure. But they haven't fallen this far.
Carolina 26, Tampa Bay 16