Panthers Three Takeaways: Week 17 vs. Bucs

BY Fansided and Zachary Lange/FanSided via Cat Crave • January 2, 2017

New year, but a disappointing result to end the 2016 Carolina Panthers campaign…

A nightmare season contained a nightmare end for the Carolina Panthers as they fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a final score of 17-16.

Featured in the contest were missed opportunities, lack of execution offensively, and a defense attempting to glue the mess together but ultimately fell just short. Carolina finishes the season with a 6-10 record, a whopping nine less wins than a season before and will be on the clock in the 2017 NFL Draft with an eighth overall pick.

“(There is) not much to reflect on. We’re going to take a long hard look at it, study what we do, and as I said before, we’re going to evolve,” commented Ron Rivera postgame about the season.

While the Panthers will look to put this season in the rearview, some of Sunday’s performance left a bitter aftertaste in the eyes of many.

Jan 1, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Robert Ayers Jr. (91) sacks Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Newton Plays Poorly, While Injured?

Quarterback Cam Newton had one of his worst performances of the season, and that is saying something. Newton ended the day 18-32 for 237 yards and three interceptions, which could have been doubled had Buccaneers defenders held on to the ball.

Earlier in the week, Rivera stated that the Panthers were “playing to win” this week. Yet postgame Rivera admitted that the quarterback was dealing with an injured shoulder and allowed Newton to

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    stay in the game on his request.

    If the Panthers are playing to win, it is counterintuitive to have an injured quarterback on the field where his performance is clearly affected. According to Rivera, Newton told the head coach, “That he (Newton) will make plays,” as the argument to stay in the game. Ultimately, the quarterback’s pick six in the third quarter was one of the reasons the Panthers lost.

    Newton was sacked three times and pressured for the majority of the contest. Linebacker Lavonte David ended the day with two sacks and three tackles for loss.

    “They asked me if I could go. I said I could, and that was the end of it,” Newton stated on his injury. “As the leader of the team, I just wanted to show that I’m willing to leave it all out on the field.”

    Numerous misfires by Newton led to a stagnant offense and the Panthers have nobody but themselves to blame for it. Player management should have been better in this situation and Newton should have been pulled from the game regardless of how Cam felt on the matter.

    Jan 1, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Keith Tandy (37) reacts after Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano (9) missed a field goal during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Graham Gano’s Poor Day

    It was a day to forget for kicker Graham Gano, who went 1-4 in field goals on Sunday. Overall on the season, Gano finished 30-38 on field goal attempts. Eight misses for Gano ranks him second in most attempts missed only behind rookie Roberto Aguayo.

    Rivera also seemed unimpressed with the effort and when asked if the kicker position would have competition in the offseason Rivera replied, “We’re going to compete at all positions. We will certainly compete at all positions.”

    Gano is set to make a little over three million in 2017 according to Spotrac. Camp competition in the coming months will make the veteran kicker prove his worth with the Panthers. If Gano were to lose the position battle and the Panthers cannot find a suitor in trade, he would carry a minor dead cap of only $750,000 dollars.

    Jan 1, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera looks on against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Missed Opportunities

    For the sixth time in the 2016-17 season, the Panthers loss by three points or less. Time and time again, the Panthers missed the key moments to take a Bucs mishap and turn it into points.

    While ultimately Gano should have made at least one of the three misses, it also is up to the offense to take turnovers and empty drives of the opposition and turn them into touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, a redzone trip after the blocked Aguayo field goal ended with a Mike Remmers holding call on a Newton run inside the five yard line and a missed Gano field goal.

    That drive was one of the biggest problems of the season. Not only were the Panthers losing in turnover differential, they failed to take turnovers and convert them into six points.

    Next up for the Carolina Panthers is an offseason that hopes to bring in more talent to compete for the division next season.

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