The Carolina Panthers Week 16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was one of the lowlights of what has been an all-around disappointing season in 2021. The Panthers have a ton of questions to figure out on both sides of the football, and that was evident on Sunday. With the Panthers-Buccaneers game still fresh in our minds, we have a few Panthers Week 16 takeaways to discuss.

The offense was completely stagnant on Sunday against the Buccaneers as Matt Rhule continued his bizarre quarterback carousel that even he is struggling to justify.  Cam Newton and Sam Darnold were splitting snaps on Sunday, but neither looked even remotely effective under center, and they certainly didn't inspire any confidence from the fanbase.

The defense was equally pitiful on Sunday, getting rolled over by an injury-depleted Buccaneers' team. Things only stand to get worse defensively for Carolina after they placed a handful of key defenders on the COVID-list on Monday, including Brian Burns and Shaq Thompson. With a handful of their defensive starters sidelined, things don't figure to improve in Carolina in the coming weeks.

With that said, here are three Panthers Week 16 takeaways from the tough defeat against the Bucs.

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Panthers Week 16 Takeaways

3. Carolina's run defense needs to step up

Surrendering 150 rushing yards is never a good thing, but to allow that many yards against the likes of backup running backs is truly worrying. Leonard Fournette was sidelined for the Week 16 matchup but the Bucs didn't miss a step in the ground attack with Lenny out of commission. Ke'Shaun Vaughn and Ronald Jones combined for 135 yards in the win, while Cyril Grayson added 14 yards. The only ineffective running back in the game for the Bucs was the recently-signed Le'Veon Bell, who carried the ball twice for -1 yard.

The Panthers gave up huge chunk plays on the ground, including a 55-yard rushing score to Vaughn in the first quarter, after which the Buccaneers' backfield took control of the game. Tom Brady was effective with virtually none of his usual weapons available to him, apart from Antonio Brown, and his success is largely in part to the effective rushing attack. If the Panthers can't stop the run, which will become even more difficult amid the loss of Burns and Thompson, the entire defense becomes vulnerable, as we witnessed on Sunday.

2. Robby Anderson's antics are worrisome

Robby Anderson hasn't had a great debut season for the Panthers in 2021, and fans certainly won't be thrilled with the wide receivers' antics from late in Sunday's loss. With the game out of reach and just a few minutes remaining on the clock, Anderson caught a first-down reception and proceeded to spin the ball and celebrate right in front of the Buccaneers bench. Carolina was down by 26. Anderson received some criticism for his unnecessary celebration, and then later proceeded to call out Panthers fans for their treatment of Sam Darnold, who was booed upon entering the game. While his defense of his QB is admirable, Anderson doesn't seem to be putting himself in a favorable position with the fanbase.

1. Matt Rhule's quarterback carousel is crippling the offense

The best way to make sure an offense can't find rhythm and develop a strong rapport is to frequently swap out the quarterback. If that's Matt Rhule's plan with the quarterback carousel taking place in Carolina, then he's succeeding. Rhule's inability to stick to one QB has been a plague for the Panthers, and the fanbase is clearly losing patience with both the QBs and the head coach. When Rhule replaced Cam Newton with Darnold on Sunday, the former Jets QB was greeted by a chorus of boos from the crowd. Not only is Rhule's confusing decision-making irritating the fans, it's clearly impacting the play of the team's quarterbacks, none of whom have been able to find a groove through the air in 2021.

Rhule needs to make a decision and stick with it, regardless of who he chooses. The only teams utilizing as many different quarterbacks as the Panthers are squads that have been plagued by injury. No other coach in the league is willingly cycling through quarterbacks like Rhule has, and even he hasn't been able to offer a suitable explanation for his decisions. Whether he elects to roll Newton out there for the rest of the year or Darnold, it's clear that the quarterback situation in Carolina is the root of their offensive problems.