CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after running for a first down in the second quarter of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
It was a brown paper bag kind of evening for Bucs fans in Charlotte.
Tampa Bay’s ugly, disheartening stretch run to the season came to an uninspiring end Sunday when Carolina put a 38-10 pounding on the Buccaneers. The Panthers’ win locked up the league’s best record (15-1) and home-field advantage in the postseason.
“Not exactly the way we wanted to finish our football season,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said after his team concluded a once-promising year with four straight losses. “I think we made a lot of progress; you wanted to see it on the scoreboard with wins at the end of the season. Didn’t get that.”
After allowing Tampa Bay to take a 3-0 lead into the second quarter, the Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton reminded the Bucs who continues to rule the NFC South by rattling off 31 straight points. It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that Tampa Bay lit the scoreboard again when quarterback Jameis Winston dove in from four yards out.
There wasn’t much to feel good about after this loss that dropped the 6-10 Bucs into sole possession of last place in the NFC South.
The 24 points Tampa Bay surrendered in the second quarter was the most in any single period since giving up 21 in the first to Tennessee Week 1. Carolina outgained the Bucs 256-155 in the opening half and it wasn’t until Tampa Bay’s final drive of the second quarter that the offense surpassed 100 yards. The Bucs managed to turn Carolina over twice (a pair of fumble recoveries by linebacker Lavonte David) but gave away possession three times (two Winston interceptions and a fumbled punt by Bobby Rainey).
When asked what the Bucs need to do to turn a corner and become a winning football team, Winston said it starts between the ears.
“Just building on the positive and eliminating the negatives. We’re going to create a mindset this offseason, I guarantee it. We’re going to create a winning mindset: a mindset that you will never give up, a relentless mindset of being able to persevere over adversity. We’re going to have that next year.”
The main highlight coming from Sunday’s blowout was a 20-yard, late-game completion from Winston to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Its effect on the outcome was negligible but it lifted the rookie’s season-long passing total over 4,000 yards. Winston entered the afternoon with 3,717 yards and added 325 against Carolina to finish the year with 4,042. His second 300-yard game of the season – second in three weeks – pushed him past Payton Manning on the all-time single-season rookie passing list. Winston trails just Newton (4,051) and Andrew Luck (4,374).
“No, it doesn’t matter,” Winston said, shaking his head during the postgame press conference when asked if it’s a special achievement. “It doesn’t matter at all. It matters for the team. That’s a good accomplishment for the city of Tampa, for the team, we haven’t had that done here in a long time.”
Newton got the better of Winston all throughout Sunday’s head-to-head battle between Super Bowl hopefuls and cellar dwellers. The dynamic fifth-year signal caller finished with a 139.9 passer rating after completing 21 of 26 attempts for 293 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Newton ran in a pair of scores for good measure, including the Panthers’ first of the game that kick-started their 31-point run.
Winston, who wasn’t particularly sharp Sunday, completed 29 of 47 passes for 325 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
It wasn’t until midway through the third quarter when the Panthers called off the dogs that Tampa Bay managed to make the game look competitive for box-score readers. The Bucs managed to outgain Carolina 386-366 and controlled possession for just four minutes less than the Panthers, but that all began to square up after the decision was well in hand.
“I have to do better,” Winston said of the offense’s struggles. “I can’t turn the ball over. This team, we’re capable enough. I just can’t turn the ball over.”
Playing without running back Jonathan Stewart, Carolina still managed to rack up 111 yards on 32 carries as a team. Pro Bowler Mike Tolbert led the way with 59 yards, followed by rookie Cameron Artis-Payne’s 14-carry, 44-yard day that culminated with the first touchdown of his NFL career on an 11-yard run in the second quarter that increased Carolina’s advantage to 17-3.
Bucs tailback Doug Martin didn’t enjoy similar success as he tried to make a run at Adrian Peterson for the NFL rushing title. The fourth-year pro was limited to 11 yards on nine carries in the first half and 48 on 15 for the game. Martin finished his stellar year with 1,402 yards and six touchdowns on 288 attempts. Peterson sits at 1,418 yards and plays tonight against Green Bay.
Tampa Bay opened the game with back-to-back defensive stops of Carolina and tallied sacks of Newton on consecutive plays to end the day’s initial drive. A pair of blitzes up the middle allowed David and then safety Keith Tandy to record the sacks, both pushing the Panthers back 10 yards each and forcing a punt when they had been in field goal range.
Carolina’s second possession ended when cornerback Alterraun Verner punched the ball out of receiver Devin Funchess’ hands and David recovered at the Panthers 45. When Winston and Tampa Bay took over it represented the only time a Bucs drive started in Carolina territory. In fact, it was the only time Tampa Bay got to start beyond its own 21.
Staying consistent with the season, the Bucs failed to take full advantage of the Funchess fumble and had to settle for a Connor Barth 39-yard field goal. Tampa Bay’s only other true scoring threat of the first half came right before the break. After marching the offense from its own 20 to inside the Carolina red zone, consecutive incompletions to Seferian-Jenkins from the 2-yard line left the Bucs empty-handed and still trailing 24-3.
Three Tampa Bay defenders finished Sunday with double-digit tackles. Linebackers Bruce Carter and David each had 12 and Tandy recorded 11. It’s the second straight game Tandy’s produced 10 or more tackles after never having totaled more than eight in 53 previous games played.
Tampa Bay’s three tackling leaders also recorded one sack apiece and were joined by Tony McDaniel to give the Bucs four on the day.
End of regular season. Offseason moves and draft preparation.
WR Donteea Dye, LT Donovan Smith, LG Logan Mankins, C Joe Hawley, RG Ali Marpet, RT Demar Dotson, FB Jorvorskie Lane, WR Mike Evans, QB Jameis Winston, RB Doug Martin, TE Luke Stocker
DE George Johnson, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Tony McDaniel, DE Howard Jones, MLB Bruce Carter, WLB Lavonte David, CB Johnthan Banks, CB Mike Jenkins, SS Keith Tandy, FS Bradley McDougald
QB Ryan Griffin, RB Mike James, LB Darius Eubanks, DE Kourtnei Brown, T Gosder Cherilus, TE Tevin Westbrook, TE Brandon Myers
DID NOT PLAY
QB Mike Glennon
Paid attendance: 74,169, Bank of America Stadium
Game time: 3:05
We started off getting blown out and we ended the season getting blown out. Lovie being the “let’s break this season into quarters” so I will too: Qtr 1, 1-3; Qtr 2, 2-2; Qtr 3,3-1; Qtr 4,0-4. We are 8-24 with this Head Coach. Okay I give up about firing the guy because the Glazer’s probably won’t. What a mess!!!
Another Disappointing game. About what I expected score wise. We were in this game for one quarter I guess. After that was garbage. Offense was hard to watch. I can’t blame this one all on Lovie. Defense was on field too much. Also I liked what he did with the blitz. All year I’ve criticized him and said why not blitz more what do we have to lose? Rather lose blitzing than have teams control clock and compete 70% passes. He tried something different and it was about time because front 4 alone can’t do anything period. Watching the slants work every time was ridiculous. Penalties seemed like we’re going to be better than they started after we got down. Winston had great rookie season overall but not good game for him at all. Mike Evans is a huge letdown and total garbage this year. What a crappy year for him! Dropped like half his targets, cries like a little baby to refs, can’t control his temper then gets ejected last game. Way to go buddy. Grow up you moron! Have to say though they don’t eject Beckham for what he did but for talking you get tossed? Guess they we’re as sick of his bitching as I was. Lol. We have some big holes to fill. Jury out on Lovie, but not looking good to me. Hopefully we have good draft and free agency because we need it. We did triple our wins though. Woo hoo! Lol.
Not much to say on this one. The defense got some turnovers early but then fell apart and looked the same as they have most of the season but especially the last four weeks. Winston started out slow like he has most of the season but especially the last four weeks. The combination of those two things have led to most of our losses this season. It certainly would have helped if we could have gotten Dougie going. There weren’t a lot of penalties that I could remember but apparently that doesn’t matter when you’re playing a team as talented as the Panthers.
Horse, I feel your pain. If he gets next year, there should be no more excuses.
Bucs Season Ends With Pummeling By Panthers, 38-10 – Bucs Season Begins With Pummeling By Titans, 42-14. Both by 28 point differential. You can say a lot of things about my Bucs, but you can’t say they’re not consistent!
I’m fresh out of excuses, exhortations, and commutations – moving on – this one’s flat on it’s back with all four legs in the air. Looking forward cause I’m scared to look back, SOB’s may be gainin’ on me! lol. Go Bucs….I reckon!
Well thy as an ugly finish. Jameis wasn’t sharp and started slow but it was nice to see the 4000 yards. He should get Roy which is awesome but probably doesn’t mean squat to him.
Secondary is garbage and slant after slant is just nauseating to watch. It was great to see Lovie blitz, amazing what happens when you do that every once in a while.
Asj is short arming passes over the middle and Mike Evans needs to get his shit together. Stop with the damn crying after every pass. D line is average and we need so much help.
Jamies press conference after was the most telling thing. I love that he’s calling out players who don’t care about winning. There is clearly some players who are just here to collect a check and it’s good to see our qb is going to get these guys out of the building.
On a side note having rhainey returning punts to this point shows what a stubborn and loyal to a fault guy Lovie is. Bobby should be cut tomorrow.
A few thoughts after this game:
1) our defense can’t play this “bend don’t break” style with both weak DBs and weak pass rush…I suspect Lovie knew this all along and was just riding this year out hoping for someone to emerge…sadly nobody did.
2) Mike Evans needs to STFU and play….he is going to have a rep very soon if not already amongst referees and if he thinks he isn’t getting calls now, just wait till next year.
3) We need a new Center….Hawley is just slow…and Smith is proving he belongs at OG…WINSTON can’t survive many more games getting hit like this….we need an upgrade somewhere on the OL to give WINSTON a safe haven somewhere (either strong in the middle like NO, or strong on the outside)
4) positives: Martin, LvD has returned, WINSTON is a gamer, ASJ is finding his place (which isn’t making tough catches, but is making an effect), I think we can stop the kicker shannanigans in 2016 and just stick with Barth, we have a top-10 pick to solve one problem.
Pink, on the penalties they had 5 for 65 yards today. Not the worst outing, but not good either. Just 5 yards short of 1200 for the year. Really the 4 against Bears was one of lowest overall, but the timing was devastating. Turnover negated by stupid Verner hold. Looks like offensive holding overall though was by far the most total yards of penalties. Unacceptable amount of penalties all year right up until last game.
We had the 25th ranked Scoring Defense, and the 20th ranked Scoring Offense. That equals 6-10. And considering we played Atlanta twice, NO Twice, NFC Least, AFC South, and a last place schedule, those numbers are inflated. We are picking 9th, but we probably aren’t even that good. But at least Winston looks good. Some hope for the future.
I often say that other than a handful of stars, most NFL teams are the same talent-wise. The difference is mental. Jameis is a very perceptive young man. He sees how many of his teammates on Defense merely go through the motions. Oh, he’s too classy to name names. But we here in Bucville can easily identify the culprits who, other than penalties and poor play, were nearly invisible. And where do these offenders reside? On Lovie’s Defense for the most part. Of all of Mr. Smith’s veteran F.A. vagabonds only DT Clinton McDonald (on IR) is worthy of a return engagement. In my view, those are the players Winston is calling out. McDonald, McCoy, Alexander, David and perhaps Tandy are keepers but the rest of Lovie’s hand-picked troupe should be sent packing.
Scubog; so agree with you. I’m back on the bus to give Lovie one more year. Winston convinced me it’s some of the players that have hurt us more than any coaching. There’s always reasons why mosteams allow heir players to go elsewhere and somehow we haven’t looked more closely as to the why.
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