The Buccaneers (1-3) dropped their 11th straight home game in rather unflattering fashion, this time getting blown out on a rainy day 37-23 by Carolina.
“All losses are disappointing but we shouldn’t be getting beat that way,” head coach Lovie Smith said afterward. “We played a good football team today and they did some things good football teams do.”
Many who showed up to Raymond James Stadium came to also pay tribute to former Tampa Bay great Mike Alstott. The team added his name to its Ring of Honor at halftime and Smith said he was disappointed the Bucs failed to give their faithful much else to feel good about.
“We honored one of our great players in Mike Alstott,” he said. “For all the fans that keep coming to our games at home, they need to see a better product on the football field than that.”
Quarterback Jameis Winston struggled through another rough Sunday. The rookie more than doubled his interception total on the year by throwing four picks, including a pick-6 to Panthers cornerback Josh Norman on his first pass attempt of the game.
“It’s hard, but it’s just my job so I’ve got to be positive and be that person that stays up,” Winston said of Sunday’s disappointments.
Including a lost fumble on the game’s second snap, Winston accounted for all five Tampa Bay turnovers. The NFL officially charged center Joe Hawley with the fumble following the game, but replays showed Winston failing to secure the ball as he turned to hand off to running back Doug Martin.
“I just have to take care of the ball,” Winston said. “The letdown was just five turnovers. You can’t win a football game with five turnovers.”
Carolina turned that first opportunity into three points, then pushed its lead to 10-0 when Norman jumped a poor Winston pass and returned it 46 yards. The pick was Norman’s first of two on the day.
Equally dreadful was the performance of kicker Kyle Brindza. He followed up his ugly afternoon in Houston last week with another dud Sunday, missing two of three field goal tries and one of three extra points. Brindza is now 6 of 12 on the year on field goals and 6 of 8 on extra points.
When Tampa Bay made a mistake – a turnover or missed kick – Carolina didn’t let the opportunities go to waste. Thirty-four of the Panthers’ 37 points were scored after such situations – four touchdowns and two field goals.
Despite the sloppiness, this wasn’t a blowout from the start like Week 1 against Tennessee. The Bucs had their deficit down to 17-10 at the break after Martin capped off a 13-play, 80-yard drive with a 5-yard run. Martin led all ball carriers with 106 yards rushing on 20 carries.
The Panthers and Cam Newton (11 of 22 for 124 yards, two TDs and zero picks) returned the early game favor when the quarterback fumbled away the first snap of the second half. Dissimilar to Carolina’s success capitalizing on Bucs miscues, Tampa Bay responded to field possession at the Panthers 25 by going three-and-out and Brindza missing a 43-yard field goal.
Adding insult to injury was seeing Panthers defensive end Ryan Delaire sack Winston for a 9-yard loss leading up to Brindza’s miss. The Bucs cut Delaire this preseason and he finished with five tackles and both Carolina sacks.
Five minutes later the Panthers’ lead ballooned to 31-7 after touchdowns on back-to-back possessions. On the first play after Brindza’s miss, Bucs safety Chris Conte fired in and forced a fumble by running back Jonathan Stewart but the ball popped right out to Panthers tight end Ed Dickson, who raced 57 yards into the end zone.
Winston responded by throwing his second interception to Norman and Carolina was in the end zone again five plays later with a Newton-to-Ted Ginn Jr. touchdown.
Winston finished with a 57.0 rating on 26 of 43 passing for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Vincent Jackson took over as his favorite target Sunday, getting thrown to 15 times and catching 10 for 147 yards and a late touchdown. The other scoring pass came in the third quarter and went to running back Charles Sims, his second of the season.
The Bucs stay at home to host Jacksonville (1-3) next week at 1 p.m.
WR Vincent Jackson, LT Donovan Smith, LG Logan Mankins, C Joe Hawley, RG Ali Marpet, RT Gosder Cherilus, TE Brandon Myers, WR Mike Evans, QB Jameis Winston, RB Doug Martin, FB Jorvorskie Lane
LDE Will Gholston, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Clinton McDonald, RDE Jacquies Smith, DB Sterling Moore, MLB Kwon Alexander, WLB Lavonte David, CB Tim Jennings, CB Mike Jenkins, SS Chris Conte, FS Bradley McDougald
QB Ryan Griffin, CB Johnthan Banks, FS Major Wright, C Evan Smith, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Luke Stocker, WR Russell Shepard