The Buccaneers have now won two games in a row and improve to 5-7 on the season. Yes, I did just say that. The Bucs were able to hold on and defeat their division foe in the Carolina Panthers by a score of 24-17. This was a fantastic game by the Buccaneers defense and the offense, for the second straight week had no turnovers. It was a nail biter but at the end of the day the Bucs were able to eat the W.
How They Started
Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense came onto the field and marched down it. The drive was balanced and Winston was decisive. The drive was capped off with a 3 yard touchdown pass by Winston to Adam Humphries, who is having a fantastic season. The extra point was good and the Bucs led 7-0. The Panthers offense came into the field and this was going to be a big test for this Buccaneers defense. They were without their top four corners today and this Panthers offense created problems for the defense last time these two teams faced off in week 9. The Bucs could not have imagined a better start for the defense. They sacked Newton for a 8 yard loss on 2nd down and then Newton was intercepted by safety Andrew Adams and was returned for 16 yards. The Bucs then were only able to get 3 yards and settled for a field goal. 3 points is better than no points though and the score was now 10-0. The Panthers got the ball back and got running back Christian McCaffrey going as he broke off a 53 yard run. The very next play he caught a pass and went into the endzone for the touchdown. The Bucs lead was trimmed to 3 and the score was 10-7. The teams would trade punts and then the Bucs had a very nice looking drive that featured a Winston to Godwin pass that went for 48 yards they got all the way down to the 4 yard line and then Peyton Barber get the carry and went into the endzone, or so we thought. Barber had lunged forward and put the ball out, he landed on a Bucs lineman and when he did that, the ball had popped out. It was ruled a fumble on the field, they went to review it and ultimately kept the call. I personally think the Bucs got screwed on that call. The ball clearly crossed the plane before Barber lost the ball. Should have been 6 points, not the Panthers ball. Anyways, the teams would trade punts yet again and then the Panthers finally were able to get into a rythym and all the way down to the Bucs 25 yard line when Newton threw his second interception of the day as Javien Elliot jumped the route and ran it all the way down to the Panthers 32 yard line. The Bucs were able to get the ball down to the 3, but after a holding call it was pushed back. On 3rd down Winston dropped back, scrambling and fired a touchdown pass to Chris Godwin in the corner of the endzone. The extra point was good and the score was 17-7 going into halftime.
At The Half
That turnover before the half was huge. The Panthers were getting things rolling and that completely stopped them. The fact that the Bucs were able to turn that into 7 points was an even bigger deal. The Bucs defense did a nice job getting pressure on Newton and forcing him into some bad throws. The blitzes were able to get home early and often. The offense was able to do their job and had they not gotten screwed on a call earlier, it would have and should have been a 24-7 lead for the Buccaneers. The Panthers though, were fighting for their playoff lives. They had lost 3 straight games after beating the Bucs in week 9. They needed this game. They were going to come out determined to get a victory, the Bucs had to match that feeling.
How They Finished
The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and had a 9 play, 56 yard drive that ended with a Graham Gano field goal. The Buccaneer lead was cut down to 7. The Bucs then answered that with a nice drive of their own. After a suspect call on Panthers corner Dontae Jackson in the endzone, the Bucs got the ball on the 1 yard line and put the ball in the endzone courtesy of Peyton Barber. The score was 24-10 and it seemed that the Buccaneers had taken control of the game. That feeling only last a little while as the Panthers were able to find Devin Funchess in the endzone for the 10 yard touchdown to cut the Bucs lead again to 7. The feeling of “here we go again” started when the Bucs were forced to punt on the next drive and the Panthers got the ball right back. That was until Gerald McCoy was able to pressure Newton enough to force a bad throw that was again, picked off by Andrew Adams. The Bucs had another chance on offense to put the game away and just could not capitalize. They were forced to punt and gave the Panthers another shot at tying this game up. Luckily Andrew Adams was an absolute beast today. He picked off Cam Newton again and this time it was even more important because the Panthers were getting pretty deep into Buccaneers territory. The offense again could not get into any rythym as they were forced to punt and only took 64 seconds off of the clock. The Panthers got the ball and got it to midfield and faced a 3rd and 5. Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul came up huge with a sack and WOW did he get a jump on the snap or what? Unreal play. The Panthers now faced a 4th and 10 and Newton overthrew an open Devin Funchess. The Panthers turned it over on downs but the game was not yet over. The Panthers had a timeout and still had the two minute warning. They were going to get the ball back. The Bucs ran the ball three straight times just trying to run the clock down and eventually gave it back to Carolina with about 70 seconds remaining. The Panthers completed a few balls but the Bucs did a nice job of keeping them in bounds and the Panthers finally threw up a prayer and it was batted down. But wait. There was a offside call on JPP and the Panthers would get another shot. They brought in QB Taylor Heinicke who has a pretty strong arm but he was unable to find any luck. The ball was batted down yet again and that was all she wrote.
For the second straight week, this Buccaneers team played well in all three phases of the game. They say turnovers come in bunches and that is proving to be true. After not having an interception since week 3, the Buccaneers have now had 6 interceptions in the last 5 quarters of football they have played. Winston was very sharp again today and is making an excellent case for himself to stick around next year. He is starting to prove that he is indeed a franchise QB. The playoffs are still a ways away, but for now this Buccaneers team is staying alive.