It was a rough day at the office for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The defense put forth another disappointing effort, and the Carolina Panthers would run away with the victory.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fought hard to come back in Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, but it wasn’t enough.
Now at 3-5, the Bucs are in need of a miracle to make the postseason. With a historically bad defense and a pair of turnover-prone quarterbacks, the once hopeful 2018 campaign has turned into just another losing season.
When the season is over, the loss to the Panthers will be remembered as the game where the season turned on its head.
Here are five takeaways from the Buccaneers Week 9 loss.
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Mike Evans shut down
Ryan Fitzpatrick targeted Evans on 10 occasions, but he only managed one catch for 16 yards. While the Bucs offense turned it on in the second half, the slow start in the first half was primarily due to Evans’ struggles.
Carolina’s third-year corner James Bradberry had one of his best performances, breaking up multiple passes heading Evans’ way.
Evans’ performance doesn’t stem from Fitzpatrick’s inaccuracy, but rather Bradberry’s coverage. Rarely, does Evans get shut down. The last time he registered only one catch was last November when New Orleans thrashed Tampa Bay, 30-10.
O.J. Howard continues his rise
There’s no way around it. O.J. Howard is ready to burst onto the scene. Howard caught a pair of touchdowns to go along with four receptions for 53 yards.
Tampa Bay ran a pair of plays for him in the red zone, and he delivered. Howard excels in space, but if he can become the Buccaneers’ premier red zone target, it makes him the ultimate weapon.
Howard’s 16.9 yards per catch sits atop the league alongside another breakout player, in San Francisco’s George Kittle.
Howard is already on the brink of surpassing his totals from his rookie season. He has moved up the pecking order and should be in line for even more targets if he can remain healthy.
Adam Humphries’ career day
Adam Humphries had a career day against the Panthers. He scored two touchdowns in a game for the first time in his career, and his eight catches and 82 yards ranked as the third and fourth-highest marks of his career, respectively.
As the Buccaneers fourth receiver, rarely does Adam Humphries put up eye-popping numbers. He may have a few catches here and there, but rarely does he see many snaps.
That’s not a knock on Humphries either, on nearly every other team, he would likely be one of their primary weapons. Luckily for Tampa, they feature a wealth of talent at the wideout position.
Ryan Fitzpatrick claws back
When the Buccaneers defense digs him a big hole, Fitzpatrick gets comfortable. In nearly every game this season, Fitzpatrick has climbed back from down multiple touchdowns, to fall short in the end.
His first half was subpar, a bad interception and inability to kickstart the offense played a role in the Bucs massive deficit. But when the defense allows 35 first-half points, there’s no chance for him to succeed.
Even when all hope appears to be lost, Fitzpatrick finds a way to climb back into the game, and that’s what he did on Sunday. He tossed four touchdowns and turned a blowout into a nailbiter for Carolina, at least for a short time.