"The thing we didn't do is we didn't protect the football," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the game. "We turned it over twice on the offensive side in the first half, and didn't give ourselves a chance to score. That's the thing we can't do."
While those two giveaways were costly, the most egregious one came in the middle of the fourth quarter. On first-and-goal from Tampa's 1-yard line, Carolina perplexingly opted for a play-action pass. Derek Anderson's throw to tight end Greg Olsen, with two Bucs in the area, was picked off by Brent Grimes. Carolina's offense only gained seven yards the rest of the game.
The Panthers' 19 giveaways last year were a key component in their NFL-leading turnover differential. That turnover total is already up to a league-high 14 this season.
"In this league, you make your own luck, you make your own fate ... nobody feels sorry for us," Olsen said. "It's just the reality for us."
"It's really one or two over here and there, and they're different. It'd be easy if it was always the same guy or it was the same penalty," Rivera said. "Last year we had penalties, we won football games. This year, we had penalties and it's costing us. We gotta make sure we're not making those mistakes."
"Again, it's still early in the season, it's the start of the second quarter," Rivera said. "The truth of the matter is we got to start getting things rolling. We got the Saints coming up pretty soon. We got a short week, so we just got to start getting prepared and move forward. You can't look behind."