After a week that included trading away Robby Anderson and Christian McCaffrey, expectations weren't exactly high for Panthers fans heading to this Week 8 matchup against Tampa Bay. PJ Walker had a very very uninspiring performance in Los Angeles last week, a game plan that mostly included bubble screens and passes behind the LOS. Yet, Carolina somehow dominated against Brady and the Bucs. How exactly did they do that?
Strong Showing by PJ Walker
Prior to this Sunday, the former XFL star was prone to playing hero ball and any action he got late in games often preluded to an errant pass. However, PJ's performance against the Bucs was probably his best and most efficient game of his NFL career; He finished 16-of-22 for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns and no turnovers. Spreading the ball around more effectively, Walker connected with seven different Panthers and DJ Moore eclipsed 60 yards for the first time this season.
Interim head coach Steve Wilks has already determined that #11 will make the start next Sunday against the Falcons given his impressive showing this past weekend. The Charlotte native said that "it's going to be hard to try to pull him out" once Mayfield and Darnold fully recover. It's worth noting that if the Panthers win next week, they will have a chance to be in the driver's seat of the division. Personally, I'd keep PJ in.
D'Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard's Tough Running
If we're being honest, we didn't expect such a dominant performance on the ground given the recent loss of superstar Christian McCaffrey. Foreman and Hubbard were not to be ignored as all the previous weeks; together, the two backs amassed 24 carries for 181 yards and 1 touchdown. Although Chuba got the official start, it was clear that Foreman was ready for the opportunity. His 60+ yard run in the 3rd quarter broke the game wide open and all but sealed the deal against Tampa's struggling run defense.
It's worth considering if McCaffrey could have been a crutch for the offense over the past three years. Ben McAdoo had a difficult time finding a healthy workload for CMC while also spreading the ball evenly to other playmakers like DJ Moore, and his creativity was evident in a Christian McCaffrey-less game.
Burns' Big Day
By halftime in Charlotte, Brian Burns had a stat line that included 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFLs, and 1 QB hit. His most prized play was taking down Tom Brady for the first time in his career; burns was quoted saying, "The G.O.A.T. got caught in the web." Throughout the game, he pressured Brady into miscalculated throws, a few that almost fell into the Panthers' lap.
The former Florida State Seminole was the subject of many trade talks over the past two weeks, with the most recent report saying that Fitterer rejected an offer that comprised 2 first-round picks. It's clear that the 24-year-old is here to stay for the long haul along with his franchise counterparts in DJ Moore, Ikem Ekwonu, Jaycee Horn, and others.
The Panthers simply dominated the Buccaneers in all aspects of the game, capitalizing on some of Tampa Bay's offensive miscues. Carolina is only a couple games back in the division and face another rival in Atlanta next Sunday. If you have any comments, leave them below.
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