The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered Week-9 of the NFL season in disarray after falling to 3-4 in a Week-8 loss that was bad enough to cost Jameis Winston his job at quarterback.
Ryan Fitzpatrick started the game at quarterback for Tampa Bay, and the offense started with the ball, but there was no magic to start the game as the offense would go 3-and-out after a poor pass from Fitzpatrick on 3rd-and-7.
The Buccaneers defense started the game on a high note however, as they pulled Cam Newton on third down and forced a 3-and-out of their own.
The next drive turned into disaster for the Bucs as Fitzpatrick threw an interception as atrocious as any of the picks thrown by Winston a week ago, and safety Eric Reid returned the ball inside the Buccaneers 10. A late hit on Devonte Bond later, and it wasn’t long before what seemed inevitable happened as Panthers fullback Alex Armah hopped into the end zone on 2nd-and-goal to put Carolina ahead 7-0.
The Bucs offense continued its slow start, and Carolina was quickly back on the field, and it wasn’t long before Christian McCaffrey was in the end zone putting Carolina up 14-0, but it already felt like 100-0, and as if the Bucs had no chance to come back.
Just when it looked like the Bucs offense was going to struggle all afternoon, Fitzpatrick got a drive going with a big play to O.J. Howard, and 15 yards was tacked on thanks to a roughing the passer call. A few moments later, Fitzpatrick hit Howard again on a play action pass for a touchdown to pull the Bucs to within seven at 14-7.
As soon as the Bucs pulled to within seven, they gave it right back, and Curtis Samuel danced around the Tampa Bay defense on a double reverse, picking up 33 yards for the touchdown to make it 21-7.
After a couple sacks forced the Bucs to punt from within their own 10-yard-line, Carolina’s offense came back onto the field and continued to roll as McCaffrey had a big play, and eventually the touchdown, and Carolina read 28-7 with just over seven minutes to play in the first half.
As if the game wasn’t off to an embarrassing enough start, Dirk Koetter decided to fake a punt on the Bucs 25-yard-line on the following drive, giving the Panthers the shortest field possible to add to the lead, and of course they did as Newton found Greg Olsen who made an amazing catch to complete the 17-yard touchdown to put the Panthers ahead 35-7.
The Bucs were able to muster one more touchdown from Fitzpatrick to O.J. Howard on a 4th-and-goal with 15 seconds remaining in the first half to make the score 35-14 heading into halftime.
After the half, the Bucs defense forced a 3-and-out just as it had to start the first half. The Bucs offense got things moving again, and Fitzpatrick threw his third touchdown pass of the game, hitting Adam Humphries to pull the Bucs to within 14 at 35-21.
Unbelievably the momentum continued to swing Tampa Bay’s way, and after yet another stop by the defense, the Bucs offense headed down the field again, and after Humphries was deemed down at the 1-yard-line, a challenge confirmed he was indeed in the end zone to pull the Bucs to within a touchdown at 35-28.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen so many times, the Bucs defense wasn’t up to the task in one of the game’s biggest moments, and Newton led the Panthers down the field before finding Samuel for a touchdown to stretch the lead back to two scores at 42-28 with under 10 minutes to play.
The Bucs would get the ball back down 14 with just under four minutes to play, and Fitzpatrick was aggressive, immediately looking to go deep to Desean Jackson, but Dontae Jackson intercepted the ball, effectively ending any chance for a Buccaneers comeback.
After some formalities, Carolina put the game away and sent the Bucs home with a 42-28 loss, and serious questions about the just about every facet of the game, with coaching being atop the list.