It was the first Tampa Bay game this season, on Sept.19, that really gave Panther fans the shudders.
The season opener – a 31-18 loss to the New York Giants – could be justified in some ways because Matt Moore threw three end-zone interceptions and it was on the road against a good team.
But getting whipped 20-7 by Tampa Bay in Charlotte – that was very different. A 13-point home loss to a Bucs team that had gone 3-13 the year before?! That made everyone understand that the Panthers were the worst team in their division and one of the worst in the league.
So, a few notes about Sunday:
-- The Panther receivers have to man up. Tampa Bay safety Ronde Barber chided them after the first game by saying: “They don’t have a lot in the way of threats over there at wide receiver.” Proving Barber wrong today will be the only way this offense could possibly get going, unless Mike Goodson somehow goes wild.
-- In the first Tampa game, the Panthers’ defense was good on just about everything but third-and-long. It got Tampa Bay in third-and-9 or more on six occasions – and allowed the Bucs to convert five of those. That’s got to change. Quarterback Josh Freeman must be gang-tackled – that guy is enormous.
-- I wish the Panthers would use Armanti Edwards in the Mountaineer formation for at least a few plays. That’s conceivable, given that Edwards will be the No.3 emergency quarterback and thus could play in the fourth quarter for a couple of plays and still allow the Panthers to substitute Jimmy Clausen or Tony Pike back in at that point. But given Carolina’s reticence to use the formation, I’d say it’s unlikely.
-- I’m 5-3 picking the outcome of Panthers’ games this season, which isn’t very good but is better than Carolina’s 1-7 record. The pick for Sunday: Tampa Bay 23, Carolina 10.