1. Kudos to head coach Greg Schiano and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan for making weakside linebacker Lavonte David the defensive playcaller. Even though he is just a rookie, David is the best linebacker Tampa Bay has. That's why he is on the field for all three downs; he can do things Mason Foster and Quincy Black can't. David has massive potential and the skills to become an elite linebacker in the NFL. The coaching staff is doing the right thing by making him a major part of the defense.
2. Where did this stifling defense come from? For the past several seasons, the Bucs defense had holes so big that the Titanic could make it through without a scratch. Playing the Panthers – a team that averaged 216.5 rushing yards in two games against Tampa Bay last season – things figured to remain the same. But the Bucs came out and dominated the line of scrimmage and tackled better than we have seen in nearly a decade. They allowed a franchise low 10 rushing yards to Carolina. This performance should make even the Bucs' Super Bowl-winning defense proud and suggests that those terrible games during the Raheem Morris-era are a thing of the past.
3. The Bucs' identity on offense is clearly one that plans on limiting mistakes for quarterback Josh Freeman. Greg Schiano said the team plans on running the football – they did – and taking shots down the field. The second part they didn't do against the Panthers. The Bucs played pretty conservative in second half as they tried to protect their lead. But that almost allowed Carolina to get back into the ball game. It would have been nice to see Freeman throw a few deep balls to his $55 million receiver – Vincent Jackson, who had just 47 yards on four catches.
4. Welcome back Gerald McCoy. Eager to get back on the football field after another season-ending biceps injury last season and hush the whispers that he might be a potential bust, McCoy made his presence felt in a big way against the Panthers on Sunday. McCoy was Warren Sapp-like and lived in the backfield. The former No. 3 overall pick used his quickness to routinely beat Carolina's guards and made life hell for Cam Newton on a number of occasions. McCoy's final numbers were only two tackles and a sack, but he was a major reason why Tampa Bay won this game.
5. One person who is not getting the credit he deserves after this game is fullback Erik Lorig. The former defensive end-turned tight end-turned fullback (got that?) played ights out against the Panthers. He did a solid job blocking linebacker Luke Kuechly, Carolina's first-round pick, all afternoon, and even became a major contributor out of the backfield with four catches for 21 yards. Lorig also played well on special teams with two tackles. While he may not do one thing particularly great, Lorig does many things well and looks like he will get more opportunities to make plays in the future after his performance on Sunday.
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