Bucs Ship Runs Aground on Norman Island, Panthers Advance to 4-0.

The Panthers defense forced 5 turnovers in route to a 37-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers defense took advantage of a wet and rainy day in Tampa with an early fumble recovery on a botched snap to rookie Jameis Winston and never looked back. With the offense able to take advantage of multiple turnovers, it made for a long day for the Buccaneers.

The talk all week was focused around the trade bringing star defensive end Jared Allen to Carolina from Chicago in hopes of sparking a non-existent Panthers pass rush. Interestingly, it was the other signing at defensive end this week that would end up providing the spark and stealing the thunder.

Ryan Delaire, out of Towson,  racked up five tackles and two sacks, and a near a third if not for quarterback Jameis Winston getting rid of the football on the way to the ground that he was flagged for intentional grounding, in his Panthers debut. Delaire was quick and strong off the edge all game in his rotation with Jared Allen. He was able to really turn it on later in the game when Allen was slowed up with a leg injury he is calling a "pinched nerve." Be sure to check out an article on Ryan Delaire from earlier this week right here on C3 for more back ground on the new signing, he's off to a hot start. 

Kurt Coleman

Kurt Coleman

Josh Norman wasted no time making his presence felt in this one making another great read and jumping a flat route for an interception on Winston and returning it for a touchdown to put the Panthers up 10-0 early. He was also able to take advantage of a ball thrown just behind receiver Vincent Jackson later and turn it into his second interception on the day.  Norman likely would have had a third interception had he taken an extra step backwards on a pass intended for receiver Mike Evans where Norman got full extension once again and knocked the pass to the ground with one hand saving a touchdown.

I know the Panthers and Dave Gettleman do not typically negotiate contracts during the season but this may be a special situation giving the stock Norman is increasing with his play. Even if the Panthers did want to negotiate, Norman could refuse as he looks to build it even higher through out the season. One thing is for sure, he will demand some money and the Panthers should pay him. Norman ended his day with four tackles and two interceptions, one for a touchdown.

Kawaan Short was able to get his hands on a Winston pass at the line and tip into the air for a diving interception by safety Kurt Coleman that would set up a Newton to Ginn touchdown to give the Panthers a 17-3 lead in the first half. 

Thomas Davis threw his name on the turnover list making a great interception by high pointing a pass as well. Davis ended with 11 tackles and an interception on the day, solid outing.

Cam Newton is playing the best ball of his career to start this season. He doesn't always put up the flashy numbers like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or a young Peyton Manning but his ability to get positive yards out of nothing and keep plays alive with his freakish athleticism is more than enough to win games. He is doing a great job managing games in this offensive system and going through his progressions and taking his check downs when the deep play isn't there. It's amazing what you can do with some time behind a decent offensive line for once and your receivers are catching the ball, Cam's numbers will reflect just how good he is playin

These super star quarterbacks I listed above are constantly complimented for making the players around them better, Cam Newton is starting to receive some of this attention as he should be. Newton completed a pass to 6 different receivers on the day, which is low for his typical outing so far this season. But with the defense playing like it did today, Cam didn't have to pull out all the superman stops. 

Despite an otherwise great day for the defense, the only thing we didn't like to see was Doug Martin finding holes all afternoon on his way to 106 yards and a touchdown. Some of these yards came late when the Panthers were up and playing the pass, but he was able to rip off a couple big runs early as well. The defense has done well against the run all season and getting Kuechly back will only help this, so it shouldn't be a major concern.

The Panthers run game looked better today with Jonathan Stewart averaging five yards a carry and finishing with 50 yards on ten carries. Newton led the team again with 51 yards on 12 carries with the team as a whole finishing with 133 yards on 33 carries. Rookie Cameron Artis-Payne got the most snaps he has seen all season, albeit mainly against a stacked Bucs box late in the game playing with a big lead. He finished with eight carries for twenty five yards, which isn't bad given the context of the carries. 

The Panthers go into their bye week 4-0.  Their biggest tests, however, have yet to come. The Panthers face the toughest part of their schedule, starting in week six in Seattle. The team will need to be clicking on all cylinders the next few weeks. The Panthers have never won a game coming out of the bye week under Rivera and Newton and their biggest hump the last few years has been the Seahawks. Get Luke Kuechly back healthy, tighten down on penalties, work on the rushing game and pass rush would be my biggest points of emphasis going into the bye week before heading to Seattle.

By Tripp Morgan
Follow on Twitter @TrippMorgan6