Panthers fall to Tampa in a big way

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To quote a famous newsman, “Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.”

What went from a tied game at halftime mushroomed into an old-fashioned blowout as the Carolina Panthers turned in their worst second-half performance of the season as Tampa rolled to a 46-23 win Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

The Panthers suffered their fifth straight loss, fell to 3-7 and looked like a team that’s on the brink of completely falling apart at the seams after having surprised the experts by winning three of their first five games.

Head coach Matt Rhule was nearly at a loss for words to describe just how bad the performance truly was.

“It was completely unacceptable from every member in that locker room,” he said. “Moving forward, all of us have to understand what just happened cannot happen. We can’t play like that for a half. We can’t play like that at home. …

“It wasn’t any one area or any one position, but that was unacceptable today.”

It was such a dismal performance that the numbers are staggering.

-Tampa outscored Carolina 29-6 in the second half
-Tampa outgained Carolina 321 yards to 35 in the second half
-Ronald Jones had a 98-yard touchdown run, the longest scoring play against Carolina in franchise history and third-longest in NFL history
-Tampa didn’t punt the entire game
-Tampa had eight trips to the red zone
-Tampa was 10-for-16 in converting third down and 1-for-1 on fourth down
-Carolina was 1-for-9 in converting third down and 1-for-3 on fourth down
-Tampa had 544 yards of total offense
-Carolina had 72 yards of total offense over the last three quarters
-Carolina tried a fake punt for the third consecutive week. It failed and lost yardage

But possibly more concerning than those dreadful numbers for the Panthers is that starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down in the final minutes with a knee injury after being sacked. He went to the sideline to be examined and then headed to the locker room before the game finished.

It may not be known for one to three days the full extent of his injury. The good news is that it’s not the same leg that was severely injured a few years ago.

“I don’t know anything about Teddy yet,” Rhule said. “I don’t have a feel one way or the other, because unfortunately when the game’s over, I come in and he’s not in there, so I haven’t had a chance to see him yet. I have no idea (how bad it is).”
Up next for Carolina is a 4-5 Detroit team that appears to be one of the three best chances for the Panthers to get a win before the end of the season.

“We’re at a stage now where we just kind of have to do our job and everybody has to be right to be successful,” Rhule said. “No one feels sorry for us, and as much as I hate losing by that many points, it’s the same as losing by one. You come back next week, and we have to continue to improve. …

“We have to be better. We just have to be better. When I say that, it always starts with me and it works down.”