The Carolina Panthers (3-6) are back home in Charlotte to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) to kick off Week 10. The Bucs beat the Panthers handily in the teams' first meeting winning by a final score of 31-17. The Carolina defense could simply not stop the run. They also struggled to finish drives and score touchdowns on offense. They will need an overall better effort and more effective gameplan if they hope to snap their losing streak and even the season series against Tampa Bay.
Here are our three keys to the game for the Panthers' defense:
Contain the run
Buccaneers' Running back Leonard Fournette carved up the Panthers' defense for 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns back in week two. What's more impressive is that he did this on just 12 rushing attempts averaging over eight yards per carry. Carolina's defense has improved tremendously since its first divisional meeting. The team currently ranks inside the top half of the NFL in rush yards allowed. The Bucs have two really talented running backs in Fournette and Ronald Jones. This seems like a game that Tampa Bay is going to want to run the ball early and often. Especially when you consider Tom Brady is coming off of an awful day throwing the football last week against the Saints. The Panthers must not allow anywhere near the eight yards per attempt that they gave up in their last meeting with the Bucs or else it could be a long day at the office.
Pressure Tom Brady
As mentioned above, Brady had a tough time throwing the ball against the Saints last week. He barely completed 50% of his passes and threw three interceptions. A quick look at the tape will show why he struggled so badly. He was under constant pressure. The Saints' defense really rattled the future Hall of Famer hitting him on nearly 25% of his dropbacks. The best way to beat Brady is to throw his timing with his receivers off. The only real way to do that is to apply pressure. The Panthers have the personnel to get after the quarterback. Expect defensive coordinator Phil Snow to draw up some schemes to get his best pass-rusher, Brian Burns, in on the action.
Cause a turnover
The Buccaneers have been careless with the football at times this year. The Panthers will have to exploit this weakness to make up for the talent mismatch. Tampa Bay has put together an offense that is loaded with former Pro-Bowlers at almost every position. They can score a lot of points despite the off day they had last week when they were only able to put a field goal on the board. The Carolina defense is likely going to have to create an extra possession for their offense in order to stay in this game. If they can apply some consistent pressure then they should have no problem forcing a mistake or two.
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