Halftime observations on Panthers, Bucs

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
2:24
PM ET
Some observations on the first half of Saturday’s game between the Buccaneers and Panthers with Carolina leading 20-10:

  • Early in the first quarter, Carolina’s Cam Newton broke Peyton Manning’s NFL record for passing yards by a rookie (3,739).
  • The Bucs didn’t come out looking like a team playing to save coach Raheem Morris’ job. Their defense couldn’t stop Carolina on the opening drive. Then, LeGarrette Blount fumbled on Tampa Bay’s first offensive play and the Panthers kicked a field goal to take a 10-0 lead. Tampa Bay’s offense did play better after that.
  • Speaking of Blount, it appears he was benched after the fumble. The Bucs have been playing Kregg Lumpkin and Mossis Madu. Blount is on the sideline and does not appear to be injured. Lumpkin and Madu are playing pretty well. Quarterback Josh Freeman is playing better than he has in a long time. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but Tampa Bay fans shouldn’t think the Bucs have suddenly worked out all the offensive problems. The Panthers are worse on defense than the Bucs.
  • Freeman got sacked by Andre Neblett early in the second quarter. Nobody should be getting sacked by Neblett.
  • A lot of people are saying the Panthers need to draft a No. 2 receiver to go with Steve Smith next year. Maybe so. But Brandon LaFell, who was drafted to be that guy last year, is starting to show some signs he might be that guy. LaFell caught a 91-yard touchdown pass from Newton in the second quarter.
  • Speaking of second-year receivers that might be starting to break out, Tampa Bay’s Arrelious Benn had a very nice touchdown catch in the second quarter.
  • I know fans were booing when Carolina coach Ron Rivera decided to kick a field goal when his team was close to the goal line near the end of the first half. Yep, a touchdown would have been nice, but it wasn't guaranteed. You have to play the percentages and put points on the board when you have a chance.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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