Buccaneers: Key Plays from Week 16 against the Panthers

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1: Quarterback Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers speaks with quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers following the Buccaneers' 17-16 win over the Panthers at an NFL game on January 1, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1: Quarterback Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers speaks with quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers following the Buccaneers' 17-16 win over the Panthers at an NFL game on January 1, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

The Buccaneers suffered yet another close loss to a division rival, as they lost to the Carolina Panthers, 22-19.

The Buccaneers keep finding ways to lose games. It seemed as if the Bucs were going to be able to come out victorious, but they fell short again. The defense had a chance to keep the lead, but in typical fashion, they could not make one last stop.

The offense played well, but could not finish off drives with touchdowns. Winston was sharp in the passing game, but his fumbles cost the Bucs dearly. Winston posting his second straight game with 130 plus passer rating. The Bucs outgained Carolina 390-255.

The defense was solid for most of the game, limiting Cam Newton to 160 pass yards and one interception. Gerald McCoy and Ryan Russell each picked up a sack as well. However, the defense still can’t close games and it cost the Bucs once again. If the Bucs want to improve, they have to be able to finish teams off.

Let’s get to the key plays.

Jameis Winston fumble: 12:19 Q1

The first drive for the Bucs started out decent, but it took a turn for the worst. On first down, Barber lost five yards on his carry setting up a second and fifteen. On second and fifteen, Winston dropped back, and he was sacked. Winston lost the fumble after he was hit by Wes Horton. The Panthers recovered and took over in Tampa Bay territory.

This was a key play because the Panthers turned the Bucs over and ended their drive.

Peyton Barber 34 yard run: 4:57 Q1

The second drive for the Bucs went a little smoother. After a couple of plays, the Bucs found themselves with a second and six on their own 40. On second and six, Barber found a gap and picked up big yardage. Barber would rumble for 34 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the Carolina 26. It was the biggest play of the game for the Bucs so far.

This was a key play because it put the Bucs in great field position to score points.

Jameis Winston fumble: 13:41 Q2

The Bucs were set up with good field position following a strong series by the defense. Winston and the offense were able to take advantage, as they were able to get the ball inside the red-zone. On a second and six at the Carolina eighteen, Winston mishandled a poor snap and the Panthers fell on it. Another crushing fumble by Winston, this one was more on him than the last, however.

This was a key play because the Bucs turned in over when they were in a great position to score.

Cam Newton 31 yard pass to Damiere Byrd: 10:30 Q2

Following the fumble by the Bucs, the Panthers wanted to take advantage. Carolina had entered Tampa Bay territory after a few plays. On a first and ten from the Tampa Bay 46, Newton found Byrd short and he would go for a 31-yard pickup. This was the biggest offensive play for the Panthers so far. The Panthers were at the Bucs fifteen after the play.

This was a key play because the Panthers were in prime position to come away with points.

Jameis Winston 70 yard pass to Chris Godwin: 4:40 Q2

Following another stop by the defense, the offense was looking for a spark. Chris Godwin would give it. On a second and seven from deep in his own territory, Winston found Godwin on a post route. Godwin would go for 70 yards, breaking several tackles in the process. This was the longest play of the season for the Bucs and set them up at the Carolina eleven.

This was a key play because it picked up huge yardage and put the Bucs in a great position to score.

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Damiere Byrd 103 yard kickoff return touchdown: 2:43 Q2

Following the field goal by Pat Murray, the Panthers received the kickoff. Damiere Byrd brought the kick out of the end-zone and found a seam. Byrd broke a few tackles and found himself in open space. Byrd would go all the way to the end-zone for the first touchdown of the game.

This was a key play because it was a big touchdown for the Panthers.

Jameis Winston 36 yard pass to Adam Humphries: 1:47 Q2

Following the big return, the Bucs got the ball back with time before the half. Winston connected on a few passes to put the Bucs in Carolina territory. On a second and ten from the Carolina 41, Winston escaped a pass rusher and threw a jump-ball to Humphries. I know you’re probably thinking why Humphries of all people? But he did come down with it. This put the Bucs inside the Carolina ten.

This was a key play because it put the Bucs in a good position to score before the half.

Kwon Alexander Interception: 11:41 Q3

The Panthers received the ball first out of halftime and looked to be driving. Newton brought the Panthers to the Bucs 45, before stalling. On a third and eight, Newton looked down the middle for Bersin who had the catch initially but was hit and the ball popped free. Kwon Alexander was able to snatch the ball out of the air and bring it to the Carolina 49. Getting a third-down stop is an accomplishment for the Bucs, but a turnover on third down is almost unheard of and absolutely amazing.

This was a key play because it was a turnover forced by the Bucs that put them in good field position.

Jameis Winston 18 yard touchdown pass to Bobo Wilson: 10:27 Q3

The Bucs were able to take advantage of the turnover. Winston found Evans for a big gain of 28 to set the Bucs up inside the Panthers 20. The following play, Winston stepped up in the pocket to escape the rush and found his former college target. Winston found Bobo Wilson for his first career touchdown and the first touchdown of the game for Tampa Bay.

This was a key play because it was a touchdown that allowed the Bucs to take the lead.

Jameis Winston 39 yard pass to Freddie Martino: 4:02 Q3

Winston continued to hit his receivers for big gains. This time it was Freddie Martino who was the recipient. Facing an early third and eight, Winston took a shot deep down the field and found Martino for a 39-yard pickup into Carolina territory. The Bucs were just in field goal range, as they were at the Carolina 34.

This was a key play because it set the Bucs up in a good position to build on their lead.

Cam Newton two-yard rushing touchdown: 0:35 Q4

After a long miss by Pat Murray, the Panthers had time and good field position down by four. Carolina needed a touchdown, something they had failed to do on offense so far. Newton found Bersin for a big gain of 23 to put Carolina into Bucs territory. Chris Baker had a back-breaking neutral zone infraction penalty on a fourth and three that gave Carolina an automatic first down. A few plays later, Newton would fumble the ball pick it up and score for his first touchdown of the day. Just a sloppy effort by the Bucs to allow Newton to do this.

This was a key play because it gave the Panthers a late lead and most likely a victory.

Jameis Winston fumble: 0:35 Q4

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This was the most controversial play of the game and rightfully so. Winston was sacked by Kawann Short and lost the ball. There was no doubt that Winston lost the ball, but he had recovered his own fumble. Winston emerged from the pile with the ball clearly in his hand yet possession was awarded to Carolina. It was truly a head-scratching call by the refs, who have never done the Bucs any favors.

This was a key play because it clinched the game for the Panthers.

People are going to criticize Winston’s “outburst” but I loved it, he should go insane on a call that was so blatantly wrong. It may have been a little over the top to shove one of the team’s assistants over, but Winston was rightfully fired up. Winston has played his heart out the past two games and has nothing to show for it. Winston’s three fumbles surely are not going to look good, but two out of three were unavoidable blindside hits.

Winston has been protecting the ball very well as of late in the passing game. However, the offense has to finish the drives off. The Bucs reached Carolina’s 20 several times yet only had one touchdown. The playcalling and execution must be better.

It is unfortunate that the defense cannot close games out, but they continue to play well for nearly the entire game. Up until the last offensive drive by the Panthers, the defense had shut down Carolina’s offense completely. There is just something about this team that just can’t do enough to win, it is unexplainable if I had to guess I’d say it is a mix of mindset and playcalling, but what do I know?

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The Bucs close out the season home against the Saints, Winston and Evans will be fired up for this game after how the last matchup transpired.