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Week 16 Game Recap: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19, Carolina Panthers 22


What you need to know

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

OJ Howard was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. Desean Jackson missed week 16 with an ankle injury. The Bucs blocked an extra point attempt in the 2nd quarter. Kwon Alexander intercepted a pass that was bobbled by receiver Brentin Bersin in the 3rd quarter. Patrick Murray missed a 51 yard attempt with 3 minutes left in the contest. Cam Newton fumbled the snap when Carolina scored the game-winning touchdown, but scooped it up before diving in for the score. Tampa Bay got the ball back with 33 seconds left to tie a three point deficit, but Winston took a sack and lost the football on the first play of the drive.

Carolina Panthers

After back-to-back weeks of productive offensive displays, the Panthers took a step back against their bitter division rivals. Cam Newton was not at his best; he was often late on throws and took some bad sacks as he held on to the ball too long. The offense shifted to a ground-based attack in the second half, with Newton leading the charge, and that seemed to light a fire under him. Christian McCaffrey continues to boss the backfield, with Jonathan Stewart relegated to a supporting role in this game. The receiver position proved to be a problem in this clash. Damiere Byrd, who scored on a 103-yard kick return touchdown, left the game with a knee injury, depleting the receiving corps to the likes of former practice squad player Brenton Bersin and Kaelin Clay. Devin Funchess was kept under wraps for the most part as the Bucs coverage remained disciplined throughout. Greg Olsen was targeted a couple of times in the red zone, but neither pass was catchable.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Jameis Winston, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 27 - 367 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 6 - 0
Winston, facing relentless pressure from the Carolina front 7, continued to turn the ball over at an alarming rate in week 16. He started his day out with deep completion to Mike Evans on the opening drive, but lost the ball after a defender swatted his arm two plays a later. Tampa Bay drove down into the Carolina red zone early in the 2nd quarter, but Winston fumbled the snap at the 19 yard line and lost the ball again. Winston made a risky decision that paid off late in the 2nd quarter, chunking up a jump ball for short slot receiver Humphries after pulling away from a near-sack. Humphries managed to come down with the ball for a 36 yard completion deep into Carolina's red zone. Winston and the offense were unable to capitalize with a touchdown, with rookie Godwin letting a sure touchdown bounce off his hands in the end zone. Winston took six sacks total, several of them drive-killers-including a 13 yard loss that dropped the Bucs out of the Carolina red zone during a 3rd quarter drive.

Winston finally led a touchdown drive in the 3rd quarter, hitting Mike Evans down the left sideline with a jump ball for a big gain, then finding Jesus "Bobo" Wilson in the end zone. Winston scrambled away from pressure and hit Wilson, who had worked himself open with an improvised route.

Winston and the offense drove down far enough for Patrick Murray to attempt a 51 yard field goal with 3 minutes left, but the kicker missed wide right.

Down 22-19, Tampa Bay had the ball for one final drive with 33 seconds left and a timeout, but Winston was sacked and lost the football on the first play.

RB Peyton Barber, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 51 - 0, Rec: 2 - 4 - 0 (2 targets)
Barber got the start in the backfield. Winston hit him on a checkdown pass on the first offensive play for a short gain. Barber picked up the majority of his rushing yardage on a 34 yard run in the 1st quarter, bouncing off left tackle and tearing up the sideline. Barber hauled in another pass on a short crossing route in the 3rd quarter. He carried the ball inside the Carolina 5 during the 3rd quarter, but was stuffed for no gain. Barber finished well ahead of the other backs with his 15 touches total.

RB Doug Martin, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 7 - 0
Martin entered the game in the 2nd quarter behind Barber and Rodgers. He saw limited snaps and was unable to do anything with his 6 carries. Martin was not targeted in the passing game.

RB Charles Sims, 24 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0, Rec: 1 - 19 - 0 (1 targets)
Sims saw some action in the two minute drill at the end of the first half. His only carry went for no gain. He reappeared later in the 3rd quarter, hauling in a wheel route from the backfield for a 19 yard gain into the Carolina red zone. Sims also returned one kick for 16 yards.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers, 2 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0
Rodgers was the second halfback in the game after Barber, carrying the ball once for 2 yards on the Bucs' second offensive drive of the game. He disappeared after that, with Charles Sims fielding the only kickoff return.

WR Mike Evans, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 107 - 0 (8 targets)
Evans posted his first 100-yard receiving performance of the season. He hauled in a deep crossing route for a gain of 17 on Tampa Bay's opening drive. Winston hit him with a curl route inside the Panthers red zone on the next drive, then targeted him in the end zone, but Evans drew a pass interference penalty for pushing off on his defender. Winston targeted Evans in the end zone on a fade late in the second quarter, but the pass was well defended. Evans lined up wide left and caught a seam route at the end of the 2nd quarter for a big gain. Evans made a highlight-reel worthy catch in the 3rd quarter, soaring over his defender for a jump ball from Winston. Evans came down hard and appeared to injured his lower back. He exited the game but returned on the next drive. Evans had a clutch reception for his biggest gain of the day, hauling in a 30 yard completion on a deep post on 3rd and 12 from the Bucs own five yard line in the 4th quarter. Evans finished the day with team high reception, target, and yardage totals in Howard and Jackson's absence.

WR Adam Humphries, 36 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 51 - 0 (3 targets)
Humphries hauled in an out route to convert 3rd and 7 in the 1st quarter. Two plays later, he caught a quick pass behind the line of scrimmage and ran for a modest gain. Humphries made one of the highlight catches of his career at the end of the first half, pulling in a jump ball from Winston for a 36 yard gain that set the Bucs up deep in Carolina territory just before halftime. He was not targeted after the first half.

WR Chris Godwin, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 98 - 0 (6 targets)
Godwin stepped up in the place of Desean Jackson. He caught his first target in stride on a skinny post and nearly took it to the house at the end of the 2nd quarter. The 70 yard gain was his longest reception of his rookie season and the longest completion of QB Winston's career. Goodwin lined up in a three receiver bunch formation on 3rd and goal at the end of the first half and let a touchdown bounce off his hands on an easy curl route. Winston fired a jump ball Godwin's way in the end zone during the 3rd quarter, but Godwin never had a chance at it. Godwin finished the day second to Evans in targets, reception, and yards.

WR Freddie Martino, 9 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 57 - 0 (2 targets)
Martino saw most of his snaps after halftime. He lined up wide left and caught a deep comeback route in the 3rd, shaking his defender and jetting up the sideline for a 39 yard gain. Martino pulled in his second catch later that same drive on a skinny post, again while lined up wide left.

WR Jesus Wilson, 4 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 18 - 1 (1 targets)
Wilson saw limited snaps but scored on the first reception of his NFL career in the 3rd quarter. After a big Mike Evans catch set the Bucs up in Carolina territory, Wilson lined up wide left and attempted an ineffective double move but worked his way open as Winston scrambled to buy time, eventually hitting Wilson in the left side of the end zone. It was Wilson's only target of the day.

TE Cameron Brate, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 13 - 0 (4 targets)
Despite Howard's absence, Brate couldn't get anything going with Winston. He caught a short crossing route on 3rd and long early in the 2nd quarter. Brate drew a defensive holding penalty on a seam route in the end zone at the end of the first half, setting Tampa Bay up with first and goal at the Carolina goal line. Brate hauled in a short checkdown pass late in the 4th quarter, then one final out route for a minimal gain on Tampa's last drive.


Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, 65 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 25 - 160 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 14 - 52 - 1
It was a game of ups and downs for Cam Newton, who went through everything from a hit to his family jewels to fumbling the shotgun snap but somehow still scoring on the game-deciding touchdown. Newton appeared to have picked up where he left off against Green Bay and Minnesota with his early passes, but things steadily went downhill. Pressure from Tampa Bay started to surface some of Newton's bad habits, and he held the ball too long on a few occasions, taking one unnecessary sack that pushed Carolina out of field goal range. The offense, after being clinical in the red zone in recent weeks, sputtered in this area and had to settle for field goals. Newton's decision-making was often a beat late and in the second half there was a much greater emphasis on using his talents as a runner. Several designed quarterback runs and option plays seemed to ignite a fire in him. He tossed his only interception of the game on a downfield shot to Brenton Bersin, who initially caught the pass, only to have it knocked out and picked off by a pursuing Buccaneers defender. To Newton's credit, he really turned it on in the final three minutes with the game on the line, tossing laser passes downfield for big chunks. With the game on the line, Newton took the shotgun snap from the Tampa Bay 1-yard line, fumbled it forwards and then scooped it up for a rushing touchdown. The play perhaps summed up the day for Newton who, despite his many hiccups during the game, found a way.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 39 - 0, Rec: 2 - 19 - 0 (4 targets)
Christian McCaffrey did all he could to provide the offense with some life as the passing attack struggled. As a runner and receiver, the pint-sized pocket rocket was lively early with solid carries between the tackles, mostly out of the shotgun. On several occasions he seemed one ankle tackle away from breaking a long touchdown run. McCaffrey did an excellent job making something out of nothing on a toss play. He was also giving the Buccaneers fits as a receiver, running crisp routes and layering his routes to an extent that they had no idea when he would make his break. Lining up out wide on one snap, McCaffrey did an excellent job to commit the defensive back to the boundary, before cutting back underneath on a quick slant. It was yet another solid all-around display from the rookie, who shows no signs of hitting the proverbial rookie wall.

RB Jonathan Stewart, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 19 - 0, Rec: 1 - -1 - 0 (1 targets)
The forgotten man in the backfield against the Bucs, Jonathan Stewart was often met at or behind the line of scrimmage and had little success. The second half saw a greater commitment to the run, and Stewart popped off some nice gains, but the Bucs were generally well-disciplined and able to corral him. Stewart only got his first carry in the second quarter and generally took a back seat role to Christian McCaffrey.

WR Devin Funchess, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 11 - 0 (4 targets)
It was another quiet outing for Devin Funchess as the passing game stuttered for the most part. Funchess had trouble separating downfield, and it appeared the Bucs had a well-drilled defensive plan to keep the big receiver in check. Funchess made a nice low grab at the sticks for a first down early, and a subsequent screen pass in the red zone saw him wrapped up quickly. Otherwise, it proved to be a drab game for the Panthers' main option at wide receiver.

WR Damiere Byrd, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 31 - 0 (2 targets)
Damiere Byrd lit up Bank of America Stadium with Christmas cheer after an impressive 103-yard kick return touchdown, during which he made several Buccaneers coverage team players miss. His only other involvement as a receiver came on a hitch route that he turned up the field for a nice gain after the defensive back missed the straightforward tackle. Byrd left the game with a suspected knee injury and did not return.

TE Greg Olsen, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 27 - 0 (6 targets)
On a day when the passing game was stagnant, Greg Olsen nonetheless provided a steadying presence for an erratic Cam Newton. Olsen's well-run route on an early third down drew a penalty for pass interference, as an eager Bucs defender came through the back of the tight end to attempt to break up the pass. Olsen followed that up with first catch, a beautiful adjustment to a low pass as he slid down to the turf. A downfield shot in the second half on third down fell incomplete after what appeared to be a miscommunication between Olsen and Newton. The quarterback threw the pass to the back shoulder after diagnosing the defender's position relative to Olsen, but the tight end couldn't contort his body to the correct position. Olsen was tossed a pass in the end zone late on, but it was too high as Newton failed to step into the throw.