CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Sunday will be a defining game for both Carolina and Tampa Bay.
Both teams enter this contest 0-1 and both have a lot of new faces in key positions. Most notably quarterback as Teddy Bridgewater is with Carolina and Tom Brady is with Tampa. No excuses necessary but, it takes time to build chemistry and for new teams to click which is why this week will be a telling one for both squads. Who has made the most improvements?
“I think you make your biggest jump from week one to week two,” said Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. “They (Tampa against New Orleans) got down and came right back and pulled within 10 points so there are a lot of things to be concerned with. For us, the best thing we can do is just try to make sure we are the best version of ourselves on Sunday. That energy, that passion, that excitement, we still have to find that. We found it at times but I’m talking about for 60 minutes.”
Part of finding that energy is being consistent at it every day, every practice, and every game. Putting in the extra work, raising the expectations, taking pride in doing what has to be done to get the job done. Those are the things coach Rhule is preaching this week to his young, rebuilding squad.
“If the Carolinas ever want a consistent winner that year in and year out challenges to win championships, then we have to raise the stakes,” said coach. “When I go out to the practice field and whether we win or lose this week, is today’s practice at the level or standard that it needs to be? When I watch (Christian) McCaffrey practice, I can’t tell whether we won last week or lost last week. When I watch him in the game, I can’t tell if we are ahead or behind and that’s what’s special.”
That is the message coach is trying to get through to his team especially the defense where 4 rookies started this past Sunday against the Raiders.
“We need to look out there on defense and see a defense that is flying around, that’s physical, that’s passionate whether we are winning or losing, they have to play one way,” said coach.
That will be very important this week as the Panthers take on an explosive Bucs offense. Brady threw for 2 touchdowns in week one and ran for another score. But he also threw 2 interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
New Orleans forced Brady into those mistakes because they got pressure on him. Something the Panthers must duplicate this week on Tampa, but something they didn’t do week one against Las Vegas.
In their week one defeat, the Panthers did not register a sack and only had 5 QB pressures. That will not cut it this Sunday.
“We have to be a little more tenacious,” said coach. “We have to hit pass rush moves and use our hands better so a lot of things that we can correct. That’s what we went out and worked on today. Tom Brady is an iconic QB. I don’t know how you play him any better than to try to get a four man rush so we have to get a four man rush. That’s easier said than done.”