The Buccaneers earned a hard-fought, but much-needed win on the road against the Panthers. While Tampa Bay was able to win on a late stand with its defense, there were still handful of players that didn’t have their best game.
Below is our list of the most disappointing Buccaneers from Thursday night’s 20-14 win.
CB Carlton Davis
Davis had some bright spots, but also had some moments that won’t please head coach Bruce Arians or defensive coordinator Todd Bowles when they turn on the tape.
In the second half, Davis was called for defensive holding which wiped out an interception by linebacker Kevin Minter, and on the Panthers’ final drive, he managed to get away with pass interference that wasn’t initially called, but was challenged by Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. The play wound up not being pass interference because the foul occurred just as Cam Newton released the ball. But Davis wouldn’t be so fortunate a few plays later.
Davis was called for a personal foul as he grabbed the face mask of the receiver he was covering – and even with the penalty, he still allowed the catch. The penalty set the Panthers up with first down at the Tampa Bay 11-yard line with 1:45 remaining.
The defense bailed Davis out and got the stop on fourth-and-1 at the Tampa Bay 2 when Vernon Hargreaves III tackled Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey for no gain, but had the Panthers scored and won the game, Davis might have been buying his own plane ticket back to Tampa.
TE O.J. Howard
For the second straight game, Howard was a non-factor on offense. Howard’s stat sheet was full of zeroes except for a false start penalty – one of three committed by the Bucs on the night. It’s not clear if Howard’s slow start is on Howard, opposing defenses, the coaching staff for not calling his number or quarterback Jameis Winston for not finding Howard. Regardless, the former Alabama standout is too talented of a football player to have zero catches in any game.
CB Jamel Dean
Dean’s block in the back negated a 48-yard punt return by Bobo Wilson in the second quarter that would have given the Bucs’ tremendous field position near Carolina’s red zone. Tampa Bay had to begin that drive from its own 32-yard instead of the Panthers’ 30-yard line, then ended up punting the ball back to Carolina six plays later.
LT Donovan Smith
Smith had a typical Donovan Smith game. A lot of good, but a handful of mistakes that could have cost the team a win.
On the Bucs’ very first drive, after a first down and what appeared to be a promising drive, Smith was beaten badly by defensive end Mario Addison, who blew up the running play and dropped Peyton Barber for a 5-yard loss. The Bucs couldn’t convert after Smith’s blown blocking assignment and Tampa Bay ended up punting the ball.
Later in the game, Addison would beat Smith and sack quarterback Jameis Winston. Smith was also flagged for a false start.
On the safety in the second half that gave the Panthers a ton of momentum, a blitzing Luke Kuechly was able to slip inside of Smith and tackle Barber in the end zone. While it was uncertain if Smith was supposed to pick up Kuechly, one would have to think he has to cut off the inside if sees a linebacker trying to shoot a gap. At the very least there was some miscommunication between Smith and left guard Ali Marpet.
It was the type of game that has frustrated Bucs fans with Smith for years. At times Smith was dominant in the run game and did a very good job for the most part in pass protection, but a few glaring mistakes at the wrong time took away from the positives.
K Matt Gay
The last drive drama from Carolina really didn’t even need to happen had Gay made a fourth quarter 42-yard field goal that would have extended the Bucs’ lead and made it a two-score game. Gay did make two other field goals (40, 32 yards) on the night, but the miss could have been a very costly one. Tampa Bay spent a fifth-round pick on Gay, and making field goals inside 45 yards has to be a given.