Whether Greg Schiano has lost the Bucs’ locker room or not remains up for debate but the performance (and in some cases apparent effort) of some of his star players in a rivalry game was alarming. This is one of the worst games I’ve seen guys like Gerald McCoy, Darrelle Revis, and Lavonte David play. McCoy didn’t seem interested in defending the run while Revis’ tackling left much to be desired before he was forced out of the game through injury. Offseason addition Dashon Goldson is providing more evidence that last season was indeed an aberration and that he’s a below-average NFL safety. In total, just two Bucs graded in the green while 11 ended up with grades below -1.0.
In contrast, Carolina’s turnaround has been remarkable. Sean McDermott, a figurehead for criticism for so long, is now fielding a strong unit with an aggressive mentality that is really paying off. The front seven is just always around the ball and with major hits early in the draft in the form of Star Lotulelei and Luke Kuechly, the foundation is there for a dominant defense. No one typifies the unit more, in my opinion, than Thomas Davis who has successfully come back from three ACL surgeries to play at an incredibly high level. The commitment to the cause is simply a joy to watch. In order to get to the upper echelon of teams, however, the offense is going to need to take that next step and it all starts with Cam Newton. More consistency of location would make a massive difference and really start making teams fear coming up against them in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at three performances from each team.
Tampa Bay – Three Performances of Note
Dotson Comes Out on Top
It was never going to be easy for Demar Dotson (+1.4) going against a dangerous pass rusher in Greg Hardy. The 2009 undrafted free agent continued his excellent form, however, to grade in the green for the 10th time this season. It was a complete performance as he graded positively in both pass protection and the run game and avoided committing any penalties. Overall, he allowed a couple of hurries on 29 dropbacks, including one which came after three seconds. He did make one glaring mistake where he allowed Hardy to get by him with an outside move and hurry Mike Glennon (Q2, 12:46). Dotson is now the fifth-ranked offensive tackle and ranks first among right tackles. The Bucs didn’t run outside a lot so Dotson didn’t see a lot of action in the run game but he did his job when asked, (+0.6) controlling Hardy throughout the game. Dotson’s only mistake came when he was jacked up by Frank Alexander early in the first, squeezing the hole for Bobby Rainey. He really seems to have developed nicely in his second season starting.
Sometimes You Can’t Just Penetrate
Gerald McCoy (-0.3) had an uncharacteristically inconsistent game against the Panthers. He allowed himself to be pushed around against the run (-3.5), something you just don’t see very often. McCoy was held without a tackle and there were times when he wasn’t just sealed but moved laterally and vertically. One such play came at 4:01 in the third quarter where Carolina ran a wham over right tackle. McCoy was lined up at 5-technique in a three-man line and was moved from outside the right hash to close to the left one by Byron Bell opening a big hole for a 16-yard run. The other problem was overpursuit as McCoy often went too far down the line on zone runs which opened up cutback lanes. It was a different story as a pass rusher (+2.5) as McCoy was his usual excellent self. Overall, he had three hurries in 31 rushes but that doesn’t tell the whole story. There was a partially batted pass and he beat a Ryan Kalil block clean only to see Newton already releasing the ball on a short drop. Kalil and both guards couldn’t handle McCoy in the pass game, it was just surprising that he had such little impact against the run.
Darrelle Revis (-1.2) has had a couple of tough games on the bounce and it wasn’t just injury that will have made him glad to see the end of going up against the Panthers’ receivers. This was his worst coverage grade (-2.0) since 2010 as he gave up three of five targets for 54 yards, a touchdown, and a pass deflection. He was beaten completely for the touchdown as Ted Ginn ran a simple stop-and-go which Revis bit so hard on he wasn’t even within five yards when the receiver made the catch. His pass deflection was a good play but it could have been so much more as he was unable to hold on against a curl which would likely have seen him find the end zone himself. It could have been worse too as Newton just overthrew a post route where Revis was a step behind which would have resulted in a touchdown. There was some good news in the run game where he came up from his corner position to make the stop after just a couple of yards but it was late in the play and the tackle on that occasion didn’t look entirely convincing. This is not what we’ve come to expect from one of the league’s most dominant corners.
Carolina – Three Performances of Note
Star Pass Rusher
Star Lotulelei (+3.0) has had a really great start to his NFL career but he’s been somewhat quiet as a pass rusher. If he’s to push Sheldon Richardson for the title, he’ll need to develop that part of his game. Star proved too much for the Bucs’ interior trio in this one and it was as a pass rusher that he did the most damage. The Utah product had a hit and two hurries in just 16 rushes. He also had another quick pressure negated by penalty. The highlight came with five seconds left in the first quarter where the Bucs tried to run a boot to the right. Jeremy Zuttah couldn’t handle Star’s power as he drove him back, shed the block, and laid a big hit on Glennon. Things only got better in the run game where Lotulelei had three defensive stops in just 16 snaps. To be fair, a couple of those stops were more clean-up plays but he still showed great hustle to get to wherever the runner was going to make them. Star’s highlight as a run defender came at 3:45 in the first when facing second and long. He showed great intelligence recognizing screen, peeling back, getting off the block and making the tackle just past the line of scrimmage. This game could prove crucial in the Race for Rookie of the Year.
In contrast to Star, Colin Cole (-1.6) has been struggling a little this year and it may be time that backups Kawann Short and Dwan Edwards started seeing more reps. Cole only saw 23 of them against Tampa but that was enough to leave his mark in a negative way. He managed a pair of defensive stops but they had more to do with his teammates than any special play by him. Cole also missed an opportunity for a big play as Bobby Rainey was able to escape his grasp in the backfield. Jeremy Zuttah especially was able to move him around. He got good movement on Cole with 14:28 to play in the third when he drove him laterally along the line of scrimmage on a run to the left of center. Cole also failed to register any pressure on his ten rushes.
Complete Performance from Olsen
Greg Olsen (+3.1) put in a complete performance against the Bucs. He graded positively in both blocking areas and as a receiver, contributing whenever he was on the field. That happened to be almost every play (60 of 64), as the Panthers built around the former Bears’ tight end. His blocking isn’t always pretty but it proved to be very effective against Tampa Bay (+1.7). He was especially good in the ground game where he showed the ability both to get to the second level and to down block defensive lineman. The latter of these skills was put to use consistently as the Panthers had Olsen collapse the defensive end inside while using the offensive tackle to pull and lead outside. His block on Newton’s rushing touchdown was especially impressive as he collapsed William Gholston from the right to the left hash on fourth and goal from the one! Olsen also played his part in the receiving game catching five of six targets for 85 yards. Tampa seemed to lose track of him consistently but Olsen showed the speed to pick up yards after the catch (69) when coverage was a little lax.
– Cam Newton was only knocked down twice in the entire game.
– The Carolina defense combined to miss only a single tackle.
– Mike Glennon had a quarterback rating of only 13.9 under pressure.
PFF Game Ball
Another tough choice but ultimately being so disruptive despite playing limited snaps means Star Lotulelei fully deserves the award.
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