It still figures that all eyes will be on Tom Brady in his second game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This time, the veteran makes his home debut with his new team, which takes on the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
Much attention was placed on Brady for his first NFL game without a New England Patriots uniform. So after a loss to the New Orleans Saints in a performance that was sprinkled with glitches, the pressure to make it right in Week 2 might be even greater.
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said he understands that expectations rose upon the offseason signing of Brady and that after one game there’s no reason for a major shift.
“I was amused when they handed us the Lombardi Trophy in July,” Arians said. “If we win a few games, everyone will be back on the bandwagon.”
Arians’ critical comments regarding Brady’s first game with the team stirred some postgame controversy. That wasn’t a lingering issue among the Buccaneers (0-1), who are all on the same page in preparing for the Panthers (0-1), Arians said.
“Tom and I are fine,” he said. “I don’t really care what other people think. It’s just what he and I think.”
Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for a score but he was picked off twice at New Orleans.
Brady will try to pick apart an inexperienced Carolina defense. The Panthers are coming off a game when their defense didn’t register a sack for the first time in almost two years.
The Panthers dropped their opener 34-30 to the Las Vegas Raiders, spoiling the debut of coach Matt Rhule.
“It is a long season,” Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “We don’t want to make it one that’s too long, where certain trends and things continue to roll throughout the season.”
Rhule said there’s plenty to study going into the second game because the Panthers found themselves in so many different situations. Rhule and his staff were criticized for a fourth-down play call in the final 80 seconds, deciding not to give the ball to do-everything running back Christian McCaffrey.
That’s one of the situations scrutinized.
“We need to play some games and find out more about our team and find out how we can improve,” Rhule said. “So we will improve, and we will continue to get better. We will be a good team here pretty soon.”
Bridgewater might have begun a new quarterback-receiver relationship with Robby Anderson, who made six catches for 115 yards and a score.
Last October while playing for New Orleans, Bridgewater produced one of the finest games of his career against Tampa Bay. He tossed four touchdown passes in a victory.
One area to keep an eye one could be how Buccaneers linebacker Devin White fares in coverage as he’s expected to be assigned to keep tabs on McCaffrey.
“It all starts with him,” Arians said of McCaffrey.
The Panthers saw many of the possibilities during encouraging moments in the matchup with the Raiders. They sense that with some tweaking, they can achieve the kind of results that they covet.
The Carolina defense was exposed, unable to prevent another lead change after the Panthers overcame a 12-point fourth-quarter hole. The unit is stocked with youth and expects to build on the positives.
“There was a lot of good football played on our end,” Panthers linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “We proved ourselves in most cases that we could go out there, we can play and we have the grit to go out there and continue to grind all the way until the fourth quarter.”
The Panthers are uncertain about the status of defensive tackle Kawann Short, who missed practice time this week after suffering a foot injury against Las Vegas. Cornerback Donte Jackson, who left the opener with an ankle injury, was in action for midweek practice.
Tampa Bay’s main injury concern relates to receiver Chris Godwin, who was in the concussion protocol. He had a team-high 79 receiving yards in the opener.
When Rhule was a college coach, he visited Arians-coached Arizona Cardinals teams to study what the NFL team did defensively.
Carolina is 24-15 all-time against Tampa Bay, including a 12-7 road record. The NFC South rivals didn’t meet last year in Tampa because the designated Buccaneers home game was contested in London, where the Panthers won.