An NFL season built on great expectations began in sobering fashion for the Carolina Panthers, who were beaten 16-10 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
A Carolina offense considered by many to be among the league’s most dangerous managed one touchdown and 10 yards rushing. And quarterback Cam Newton threw a pair of critical second-half interceptions, negating potential scoring drives as the Panthers tried to rally from a 13-0 halftime hole.
The Bucs ended last season with 10 consecutive losses, but under new coach Greg Schiano they knocked the Panthers off balance early on both sides of the ball and Carolina struggled to recover.
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There were familiar mistakes. Carolina had a punt blocked, and a roughing penalty against them on a punt return, conjuring memories of last season. And they had a nagging inability to make key plays as the second half wound down.
For a team many expect to challenge for a playoff spot, it was a disappointing start.
“We don’t hit the panic button,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “It’s one game. But we can’t let this be an early view of what we’re going to be like the rest of the season.
“It’ll be a long year if we play like that on offense.”