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Week 13 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

What you need to know

Carolina Panthers

It proved to be the offense and not, as it has been recently on the losing streak, the defense that let Carolina down against Tampa Bay. Cam Newton was under duress early and often, with the offensive line at times overwhelmed by the Tampa front seven. His accuracy suffered as a result, with his mechanics soon following suit. His four interceptions occurred primarily because of the pressure being exerted, with Newton making poor decisions to throw the ball in harm's way. The bigger concern may be Newton's shoulder, which appeared to be affecting the velocity on his throws as the game wore on. Christian McCaffrey was bottled up on occasion, but managed to spring loose for a couple of big runs to boost his numbers. Among the receiving corps, it was Curtis Samuel who provided the surest set of hands for Newton after Greg Olsen was forced out of the game by injury. Olsen's replacement, rookie tight end Ian Thomas, performed well in relief and will be forced into a larger role going forward.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Desean Jackson sat with a hand injury. Receiver Bobo Wilson was promoted from the practice squad in his absence. Chris Godwin shined and Adam Humphries continues to show great chemistry with Winston. Andrew Adams picked Cam Newton off once in the 1st quarter and twice in the 4th. Javien Elliot also intercepted Newton and returned it 50 yards in the 2nd quarter. Peyton Barber lost a fumble at the goal line in the 2nd quarter. Jameis Winston did not turn the ball over while tossing two touchdowns and leading the team in rushing. Jacquizz Rodgers was active but was not seen on offense.

Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 41 - 300 - 2 TD / 4 INT, Rush: 6 - 33 - 0
An off-colour performance from Cam Newton put the Panthers offense in a hole that they never climbed out of. The Bucs pass rush was intense and relentless throughout, and it appeared to affect every aspect of Newton's throwing motion. His mechanics suffered at times and he often failed to step into throws, including on a horrendous high pass to Devin Funchess on a crucial fourth down late in the game. The offensive line failed to pick up blitzers at times and often put Newton in bad situations, forcing quick throws. His first of four interceptions came on a target intended for D.J. Moore, with the low pass over the middle impressively scooped by a Tampa Bay defender. Newton responded with an excellent drive culminating in a red zone touchdown pass in the right flat to Christian McCaffrey, who dove for the pylon to seal the deal. Penalties and sacks killed a lot of drives, so Newton often how to operate from less-than-ideal platforms. His second pick came on a slant pass intended for Moore, but Newton failed to see a defender dropping into the path of the route. It was easily picked off. Newton bounced back with a zipped pass to Devin Funchess on a slant in the red zone, placing the ball behind the receiver to lead him away from an oncoming defender. Eventually the dam burst for Newton, however, and he threw two more pressure-induced interceptions; the first came on a ball that hung up on the sideline after getting hit, the second came on a lofted pass down the middle intended for Curtis Samuel. Newton was provided opportunities to tie the game late on, but the final nail in the coffin came on a fourth down incomplete pass intended for Devin Funchess. The receiver was wide open down the seam on the play, but Newton fired too high as his mechanics disintegrated at the crucial moment.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 70 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 106 - 0, Rec: 9 - 55 - 1 (10 targets)
The Bucs remained disciplined defensively and stymied the Carolina rushing attack early. It didn't take long for Christian McCaffrey to break out, however, and it came off left guard after an excellent block. McCaffrey darted up the left sideline and was tripped up inside the 10-yard line. The very next play saw McCaffrey sprint out to the right flat, catch a zipped Cam Newton pass and dive for the pylon and the Panthers' opening touchdown of the game. McCaffrey remained a safety blanket for his quarterback as the Panthers played from behind on the scoreboard. He absorbed massive shots from lurking Bucs defenders and did more damage as a receiver than as a runner. McCaffrey and the offense were only able to bite off small chunks of yardage in the second half for the most part.

WR Curtis Samuel, 58 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 8 - 0, Rec: 6 - 88 - 0 (11 targets)
Second-year pro Curtis Samuel played an inspired game against the Buccaneers and staked a claim for a larger role than he currently boasts. After an early target hit the turf, Samuel sprung into life and began to test the Bucs downfield. An end zone target looked to be a touchdown, but the ball hung up for a second too long and the cornerback in coverage batted it down before it could meet Samuel's waiting hands. A target on a post route was broken up by the safety later in the half. Samuel continued to run excellent routes and got open routinely, linking well with Cam Newton in the no-huddle at the start of the second half. Samuel made acrobatic sideline catches and also contributed as a runner in a solid performance.

WR D.J. Moore, 66 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 21 - 0, Rec: 4 - 44 - 0 (8 targets)
D.J. Moore injected some spirit and life into an at-times listless Carolina offense. Moore was utilised as a satellite player on option looks, targeted on swing patterns into the flat both on passes and pitches by Cam Newton. His first target resulted in an interception, but the mistake was on Newton, who threw into traffic and too low for Moore to haul in. Moore showed excellent strength after the catch to battle for extra yards and became a favourite target early in the second half on consecutive plays, one of which was an impressive sideline catch. Moore repeated the feat later, unbelievably dragging both feet in bounds on the sideline. As a downfield receiver, Moore couldn't quite get into the contest and was primarily used as a short to intermediate option.

WR Jarius Wright, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 44 - 0 (3 targets)
Slot maestro Jarius Wright assumed a larger role when Greg Olsen left the game, with his biggest contribution coming on a rare catch-and-run jaunt that went for 33 yards. Wright made the first tackler miss before scooting out to the sideline, cleverly cutting back inside when the space presented itself. Wright was the recipient of one more pass that went for a short gain.

WR Devin Funchess, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 10 - 1 (3 targets)
Returning from injury, Devin Funchess played fewer than half the snaps and contributed very little. A penalty for offensive holding called back a would-be touchdown for Funchess after he came back to his scrambling quarterback and boxed out a defender nicely in the end zone. Funchess got another opportunity in the second half and cashed in, adjusting nicely for a rocket pass on a slant route in the red zone. A late target on fourth down that could have been crucial to a potential game-tying score soared well over Funchess' head, a poor miss from his quarterback.

TE Ian Thomas, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 46 - 0 (5 targets)
The rookie tight end must have endeared himself to his quarterback in his limited action, snagging a pair of sideline catches - one of which displayed excellent body control as he contorted at the catch point - to aid the comeback effort. Thomas' athleticism was on full display throughout, but he was generally passed over by Cam Newton for downfield targets with the game out of hand.

TE Greg Olsen, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 13 - 0 (1 targets)
The luckless veteran Greg Olsen's foot injury came back to haunt him again against Tampa Bay, with a ruptured plantar fascia set to rule him out for the season. On the field, Olsen only caught one pass - a sideline dart from Cam Newton - and earlier drew a pass interference penalty on a benign target between the hashes. Olsen left the game in the second quarter and did not return.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Jameis Winston, 65 offensive snaps, Pass: 20 - 30 - 249 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 48 - 0
Winston did not turn the ball over for the second week in a row while finding the end zone twice. He led the offense to the end zone on the opening drive, completing several passes to Adam Humphries, including a short touchdown pass to cap the drive. Winston scrambled to the left while Humphries ran a shallow crossing route from the other side of the formation on the score. Winston found Chris Godwin for his second touchdown at the end of the 1st half. Winston once again scrambled out of the pocket in the face of pressure and found Godwin with a jump ball in the back right corner of the end zone. Winston's longest play of the day was a 48 yard connection to Godwin on a deep post route. Winston spread the ball around with 9 targets to Humphries and 6 each to Evans, Godwin, and Brate.

Winston also led the team in rushing with 48 yards. He pulled the ball down and ran for 18 yards in the 1st quarter, taking it down to the Carolina 6 yard line. Winston had a 17 yard scramble early in the 4th quarter. He was sacked four times, including two big sacks on consecutive plays late in the 2nd quarter.

RB Peyton Barber, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 45 - 1 (1 targets)
Barber saved his day with a 1 yard touchdown, but didn't do much else in week 13. He found a big hole in the middle of the defense for a 17 yard run on the first drive of the game. Barber lost the ball while crossing the goal line on a questionable call in the 2nd quarter. Carolina recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback. Barber had a run of 20+ yards called back for a holding penalty on the offensive line in the 3rd quarter. He scored an easy 1 yard conversion in the 3rd quarter after Tampa Bay drew a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone.

Barber was targeted once in the 1st quarter on a checkdown pass, but it was well defended by Luke Kuechly

RB Ronald Jones II, 9 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 2 - 0
Jones returned from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him for several weeks. He played sparingly in relief of Peyton Barber. Jones was featured briefly during a 2nd quarter drive, but didn't do much with his 4 carries. He was not targeted in the passing game.

WR Adam Humphries, 41 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 61 - 1 (9 targets)
Humphries led the team with 9 targets, most of them the short variety. He lined up in the slot and caught an out route on the first offensive play of the game, turning up the right sideline for an 11 yard gain. Winston hit him a couple of plays later with the same play to the opposite side of the formation. Humphries capped the drive with a touchdown(his 3rd week in a row finding the end zone) as Winston found him out of the slot on a shallow crossing route from the Carolina 6 yard line. Humphries caught a curl route and shook a couple of defenders to convert 3rd down early in the 2nd quarter. Winston hung Humphries out to drive with a high pass on a crossing route in the 3rd quarter, but the receiver bounced back up after taking a big shot while extending for the ball. Humphries caught a swing route from the left slot for a short gain on his last reception in the 3rd. He had another big gain called back because of a holding penalty later in the 4th quarter.

Humphries muffed a punt return in the 2nd quarter, but was able to recover the ball.

WR Chris Godwin, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 101 - 1 (6 targets)
Godwin took advantage of Desean Jackson's absence with several big plays and a team-high 101 yards. He worked primarily outside opposite Evans with Humphries in the slot. Godwin hauled in a jump ball over his defender on the first drive of the game, converting 3rd and short. Godwin caught a deep post route on play action early in the 2nd quarter and got loose in the secondary for a 48 yard catch and run, the longest passing play of the game. Godwin made an athletic catch for a touchdown at the end of the 1st half. He lined up wide right of the formation and worked his way open in the back of the end zone while Winston bought time with his feet. Godwin converted 3rd and long with an 18 yard reception on a deep out route halfway through the 3rd.

WR Mike Evans, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 48 - 0 (6 targets)
Evans had a slow game as he tied with Godwin and Brate for second most targets(6) behind Humphries' team-leading 9 looks. Evans caught a short curl route late in the 1st to start his day. Winston found him again on a short out route early in the 2nd quarter. Evans picked up 20 yards(his longest play of the day) on a deep post in the 2nd quarter. He was slow to get up after the diving catch and disappeared for a few plays, but returned to catch a deep crossing route just before halftime. Evans drew a big pass interference penalty early in the 3rd quarter on a deep ball down the right sideline. Evans himself was flagged for pass interference later in the 4th quarter on a narrowly missed connection down the left sideline.

WR Justin Watson, 7 offensive snaps (1 targets)
Watson played sparingly on offense. His only target was tipped at the line of scrimmage in the 4th quarter.

WR Bobo Wilson
Wilson was promoted from the practice squad in Desean Jackson's absence. He did not play much offense. He was targeted on a deep pass from Winston that drew a defensive pass interference in the end zone penalty in the 3rd quarter.

TE Cameron Brate, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 36 - 0 (6 targets)
Brate very nearly scored on the first drive of the game, but he couldn't hold on to a short pass as he was caught up between three defenders. Winston and Brate barely missed a long connection on a deep post route late in the 2nd quarter. Brate sniffed the goal line at the end of the 1st half when he caught an out route and was tackled on Carolina's 3 yard line. Brate's biggest gain of the day came on an 18 yard connection up the left seam at the end of the 3rd quarter.

TE Alan Cross, 15 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets)
Cross worked as a blocking back and backup tight end. He picked up a few yards on his only target early in the 2nd half.