After his first start in more than two years, Josh Johnson was kicking himself for all those kicks.
With Tampa Bay starting quarterback Josh Freeman inactive because of an injured right shoulder, Johnson enjoyed a productive afternoon statistically against Carolina in Sunday's 38-19 setback.
The potential 2012 free agent completed 16-of-27 pass attempts for 229 yards, including a 23-yard strike to Dezmon Briscoe that closed the scoring midway through the fourth quarter.
But despite some favorable field possession, the Bucs had to settle for Connor Barth field goals on their final four possessions of the opening half.
"The grade is simple – it's not good enough,'' said Johnson, a fourth-year pro whose only four previous NFL starts came in 2009, before Freeman began a streak of 36 consecutive starts. "As an offense, we're disappointed. We knew we had to score some points. …Field goals weren't going to get it.''
With running back LeGarrette Blount limited to 19 yards on 11 carries, the elusive Johnson finished as Tampa Bay's chief threat on the ground with 45 yards.
He was sacked twice and took responsibility for the game's only turnover as a miscommunication with center Jeff Faine led to an interception by rookie defensive end Thomas Keiser on the opening drive of the second half.
"I thought Josh Johnson played with confidence and poise,'' Faine said. "He should feel great about his game, but I know him well and he's going to want more out of himself. That's what I love about the kid. I know he's disappointed, but he handled his business well out there.''
Targeting Mike Williams nine times, Johnson completed five pass for 93 yards to Tampa Bay's No. 1 wide receiver.
And with Freeman's status for Sunday's game at Jacksonville uncertain, Johnson may have another opportunity to showcase his skills to NFL executives looking for a quarterback in the offseason.
"I thought Josh played great,'' said wide receiver Arrelious Benn, who grabbed a 38-yard reception from Johnson on a first-quarter pass that was underthrown. "He made plays out there, but penalties pushed us back when we were on the verge of putting up touchdowns.''
While Johnson's performance generated plaudits from coach Raheem Morris, the man who protected Johnson's blind side was left wishing he could have done more.
"Josh played well,'' said left tackle Donald Penn, "but we gave the guy no help.''