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Carolina Panthers frustrated by poor start in 31-17 loss to Tampa Bay
Four turnovers doom Carolina to 0-2 start
Published Sunday, September 20, 2020 6:00 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked five times in Sunday's 31-17 at Tampa Bay, with Bucs defensive tackle taking him down twice. Bridgewater, who completed 33 of 42 passes for 367 yards, also turned the ball over three times, including a pair of interceptions.

Two weeks into the season, the Carolina Panthers are more ifs than when.

Carolina was mistake prone and fell into a 21-0 hole early in Sunday’s 31-17 loss at Tampa Bay, but there were bright spots in the second half when the Panthers pulled to within a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Unlike the opening-day loss to Las Vegas, though, Carolina never led and struggled on offense most of the way.

“Just a week ago, we played a clean game, and then this week we came up with four turnovers, and we're still in position to go down to tie up the game,” said quarterback Teddy Bridgwater, who accounted for three giveaways that offset 33 completions among 42 passes for 367 yards. “Like Matt [Rhule, the first-year head coach] says, if we get rid of the ifs, we could be a good team. Tampa is a really good football team, a division opponent and we shot ourselves and came up short, so we’ve just got to get back to work and try to play the game the way we know how to play it.”

Carolina, which dropped to 0-2, played catch-up all day after Tampa Bay (1-1) jumped on the Panthers early. It follows familiar themes from last season, in which Carolina was frustrated by struggles on both sides of the ball.

“It’s very tough and I'm sick of it,” defensive end Brian Burns said. “Honestly, we’ve got to do something to turn this around because this one hurts. We need to fix this, and it starts with tomorrow, so that's about it.”

Carolina was further handicapped when All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey (88 scrimmage yards, rushing TD) went out late with a lower leg injury. Rhule said he didn’t know the extent of McCaffrey’s issue, which exacerbated the offense, which couldn’t overcome early mistakes and the Bucs’ defensive pressure, which sacked Bridgewater five times, picked him off twice and forced a fumble.

“I thought Teddy was under duress too much of the day,” Rhule said. “We knew they were a pressure-based defense. Too often, they were getting their hands on him, … but, I thought Teddy competed, and there's going to be days where, you know, where we just can't get things going where we want as an offense or as a team, but I was proud of the fact that he just kept pushing the pedal and got us back in the game.”

Said Bridgewater: “I take supreme pride in taking care of football, and to have three turnovers today, that's not the way I play this game, but Tampa made some plays. I’ve just got to be better, watch the tape and put the game to bed tomorrow morning, and move on to the next game.”


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