Burns, Panthers look to take down ‘arch nemesis’ Brady, Bucs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Brian Burns, a Pro Bowl defensive end who goes by the nickname ‘œSpiderman,’ calls Tom Brady the Carolina Panthers’ ‘œarch nemesis.”

And for good reason.

Brady is 4-0 against Carolina since joining the NFC South, averaging 279 yards passing per game with eight touchdown passes and one interception while helping the Bucs outscore the Panthers 150-63.

But Brady and the Bucs offense doesn’t resemble that of the previous two seasons.

Tampa Bay (3-3) enters Sunday’s game at division foe Carolina ranked 21st in offense, 20th in scoring and 32nd in rushing – some uncharacteristic numbers for a Brady-led offense.

Brady spent part of last Sunday berating his offensive line, angered by Tampa Bay’s ineptitude on offense during a 20-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This week, he admitted the offense is far from a ‘œfinished product.’

Burns is hoping the Panthers (1-5) can take advantage.

‘œIt’s always a good time to catch somebody when they are in shambles,’ Burns said. ‘œBut I don’t think he will be in shambles by the time he gets here (to Carolina). I’m sure some adversity will hit during the game and maybe he might get into it, but it’s always a good time to catch somebody when they’re panicking.’

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Burns is fully aware Brady remains a dangerous QB even at 45, particularly following a loss. The seven-time Super Bowl champion is 54-16 during his NFL career following a regular season loss.

‘œHe doesn’t like to lose twice in a row,’ Burns said.

Brady said this week the Buccaneers need to find answers soon.

‘œThe challenging thing about football is it’s the ultimate team sport,’ Brady said. ‘œWe’re all in it together. In order to score points, you have to do a lot of things the right way. We’ve just got to keep working at it.’

Added wide receiver Mike Evans: ‘œWe’re just not as good right now as we used to be, I guess. I don’t know. … (We’ve) just got to figure it out.’

NOT SEEKING ADVICE

Tampa Bay is averaging 20.2 points, down from just over 30 per game when they were second in the NFL in scoring under former coach Bruce Arians, whose offense emphasized pushing the ball downfield in the passing attack and thrived on big plays. The Bucs scored nearly 31 per game on the way to winning the Super Bowl two seasons ago.

When Arians retired last winter, Bowles was promoted to head coach after three seasons as the Bucs’ defensive coordinator. He still calls defensive plays, but said this week he will not seek advice from his former boss to try to get the offense on track.

‘œThis is my team, not Bruce’s team. We talk all the time, but you don’t jumpstart by asking a former coach what to do. We have our own things to deal with,’ Bowles said.

‘œObviously we have different players than we had last year,’ Bowles added, noting the Bucs have several new starters, particularly on the offensive line. ‘œWe’ve got to approach things a little differently and find out what works for us this year, not last year and two years ago.’

PLAYING IT SAFE

Maybe the Panthers were simply focused on establishing the run game or maybe interim coach Steve Wilks simply didn’t trust P.J. Walker. Either way, the Panthers went super conservative with their play calling last week and the result was an ugly 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Walker’s average intended air yards was 0.1 yards – which means that the average depth of his throws was barely past the line of scrimmage – according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He finished 10 of 16 for 60 yards with most of his completions coming on screens.

Carolina’s only TD came on defense.

Walker will start again on Sunday, with Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold still out with ankle injuries.

‘œI anticipate us doing whatever we can to win the football game,’ said Wilks, when asked if the game plan will change this week. ‘œIf that is pushing the ball down the field or running the ball a certain amount of times, we will see exactly how the game flows.’

McCAFFREY’S LAST STAND?

With the Panthers open to trading Christian McCaffrey for the right price, it’s conceivable they could limit the running back’s reps so as not to risk injury and reduce his trade value.

Wilks has given no indication that’s the plan, however.

But McCaffrey is an obvious injury risk having missed 23 of 33 games the previous two seasons.

‘œThat’s out of my control,’ McCaffrey said of the trade rumors. ‘œI’m trying to control everything I can control. Right now, I’m a Carolina Panther and giving it all to this place.’

HEALTHY AT CORNERBACK

The Panthers feel as though they have the best group of cornerbacks in the league when healthy.

The problem is they haven’t had Jaycee Horn (ribs), C.J. Henderson (concussion) and Donte Jackson (ankle) on the field together all that much this season. Against the Rams, all three were out with injuries in the second half, leaving the Panthers very thin in the secondary.

Wilks said he hopes to have all three ready to play on Sunday.

MISLEADING NUMBERS?

The Bucs are 3-3 despite being plus-three in turnover margin and ranking fifth in the league in scoring defense. They’ve held five of six opponents to 20 points or less. Nevertheless, the defense shares responsibility for the .500 record because the unit has struggled to get off the field on third down, including last week when Mitch Trubisky converted on third-and-15 and third-and-11 to help the Steelers keep the ball for final 4:38 of a two-point Pittsburgh victory.

AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall contributed to this report.

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

This content was originally published here.

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