Mike Glennon experiences rare step back in loss to Panthers

TAMPA, Fla. — For the first time in a long while, quarterback Mike Glennon looked like a rookie Sunday, sliding back in his development instead of moving forward. So Monday, he and his coach had a little chat.

“He and I have sat down already and discussed (that) the circumstances can never dictate behavior,” Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said, a day after Glennon went 14-of-21 passing for 180 yards with two turnovers in a loss to the Carolina Panthers. “You have to go out and do your thing. … Our core beliefs on quarterback play don’t change based on circumstance. A little bit of that happened yesterday.”

Glennon’s performance had a retro feel, and not in a good way. His profile since taking over the starting job before Week 4 against the Arizona Cardinals had been a positive one: Steady improvement each week, with improved command and confidence with more seasoning.

But the Panthers, winners of eight consecutive games after delivering a 27-6 thumping at Bank of America Stadium, placed their own twist on the Glennon narrative. It wasn’t pretty.

This day was about Glennon allowing one of the league’s strongest defenses to rattle him into rookie form. Carolina is the NFL’s hottest team for a reason, and it showed in an ugly stat line: The Panthers outgained the Bucs 426 yards to 206, produced 20 first downs to the Bucs’ 10 and held the ball for nearly nine minutes more (34:25).

“You can learn from the good, learn from the bad,” Glennon said Sunday. “There was some bad today that I’ll learn from, and you have to look at it that way. I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. So I’ll go back, watch the film and go from there.”

Much of what he saw in the aftermath wasn’t good. Sunday was just the fourth time he failed to throw for more than 200 yards and the first since the Miami Dolphins held him to a season-low 139 in Week 10. His 73.5 passer rating was a significant drop-off, considering he posted a 137.5 against the Atlanta Falcons and a 138.4 against the Detroit Lions the previous two weeks.

Then there were the turnovers. Oh, those turnovers. Glennon earned GIF infamy when, early in the second quarter, the ball slipped out of his right hand on a rollout before defensive tackle Dwan Edwards cradled it at the Panthers’ 19.

Later, safety Mike Mitchell snagged an interception on the Bucs’ first drive of the third quarter. By then, Carolina led 17-6 and was well on its way to snapping Tampa Bay’s three-game winning streak.

“It was tough, because we were on a roll,” Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence said. “We felt like we could have beat Carolina. It’s just frustrating. We made a lot of mistakes. At the same time, they’re the hottest team in football now.”

Still, the result was alarming. Schiano, and by association Glennon, will be judged by how well the Bucs stay competitive in the season’s final month. The task ahead looks tall: After a winnable game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, they host the San Francisco 49ers (potential playoff team) and close on the road against the St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints (potential top seed in the NFC).

What’s reasonable? This is what’s not: More blowouts like Sunday.

The Bucs better beat the Bills, or this could be a long, cold December around here.

“After watching the film, we knew why we lost,” Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn said. “We weren’t playing with that much passion on every play. We weren’t gang-tackling, and we weren’t doing the stuff we were doing the past three weeks to win the game.”

Certainly, the Bucs’ defense had its issues with quarterback Cam Newton. But until Glennon’s blooper-reel fumble, Tampa Bay did a number of good things. The Bucs trailed 7-6, and in four plays, they had marched from their own 28 to the Panthers’ 4 before Glennon’s slippery palm changed everything.

Who knows what happens if Tampa Bay goes ahead 14-7? Or even 9-7?

Chalk it up as a rookie moment. In this oh-so important month for Schiano, there can’t be many more.

“I’m really encouraged with Mike’s development, even though yesterday wasn’t one of his finest performances,” Schiano said. “I think he’s a guy who will rebound. … When he and I are talking, he’s just riveted on every word. You love coaching a guy like that.”

Schiano’s all-in on Glennon. That’s clear when hearing him speak, and he should be after the drama that resulted in Josh Freeman warming the Minnesota Vikings’ bench. There are many things to like about the NC State product: He’s smart and aware, eager to learn and humble enough to know he has room to grow.

Still, Sunday was the first time in awhile he made you cringe a bit. Glennon’s only 23, but he’s placed in a situation where he must perform well beyond his years to guarantee he and his coach will own the same job titles next season. There’s no room to freeze or fail.

That’s life on a 3-9 team, where the stakes include survival. That’s life where the future is evaluated daily.

“Unfortunately, we let one get away yesterday,” Schiano said. “A lot of that had to do with the team we were playing. They earned it, but we were in position there for a while.”

Unfortunately, not long enough.

Part of that is on the quarterback, and there’s little time to waste to right the course.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.