Can Bucs handle the rush of Carolina?

by Gary Shelton on December 31, 2022

in general

Saturday, 4 a.m.

The weaknesses are everywhere, as they are with most losing teams.

The offensive line cannot run block, even when there are inches to go. The pass rush needs blitzes to be felt. The secondary can lose receivers in the middle of an open field. Lately, the quarterback needs a better GPS.

But for all the weaknesses on display, one in particular will be challenged in the Bucs' biggest game of the season Sunday.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo). Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Once a wall, the Bucs' run defense has turned into a door. They have been gashed repeatedly this year. If that happens again Sunday, then it's going to be hard to beat Carolina.

Repeat that: Hard to beat Carolina. Doesn't that say everything about this season?

But Carolina enters the game dead-set on running the ball. Part of that is they're back to Sam Darnold, who has proven he can't play a lot of times. But the Panthers have rolled on the ground, getting 320 yards against Detroit, 232 against Atlanta, 223 against Seattle. They have eight games in all when they have rushed for at least 140 yards.

Against the Bucs, it's a good game plan. The Bucs' offense sputters as a matter of course; the fewer possessions they get, the harder it is to score.

Then, there is this. The Bucs' front seven is made of matadors these days.

Consider: In their eight losses, the Bucs are giving up 143 yards per game rushing. In their seven wins, they're giving up 88 yards.

As a whole, the Bucs are 17th in rushing yards allowed. But five more teams are right on their heels. Another bad game, and the Bucs could be in the mid-20s.They're tied for 19th in average yards per rush.

There will be a lot of factors to Sunday's game, of course. Brady's accuracy. The receivers' ability to separate. Whether the running game can at least be a minor threat. Whether the Bucs can take advantage of a home field advantage.

Pretty much, it's going to happen between the handoff and the final whistle.

Look, this game was all but conceded weeks ago. The Panthers fired their head coach. They traded away their best player. They dumped the quarterback who had started the most games.

Still, they have won four of six.

Might they win one more on Sunday?

Predictions: Carolina 24, Tampa Bay 20.

In other NFL games:

Kansas City 40, Denver 13.

Miami 21, New England 20.

New Orleans 28, Philadelphia 27.

Green Bay 27, Minnesota 24.

Cincinnati 30, Buffalo 28.

Previous post:

Next post: