The Buccaneers improved to 5-7 with their second straight win and put a serious dent in the Panthers’ playoff hopes, dropping their division rivals to 6-6. The Panthers have lost four straight since beating the Buccaneers in Week Nine and are now 1-5 away from home. The Buccaneers improved their own home record to 4-2 and to 2-2 in division play. This is the first time that Carolina and Tampa Bay have split a season series since 2008. The New Orleans Saints come to Raymond James Stadium next Sunday looking to avenge Tampa Bay’s win in the Superdome in Week One.
“We know that we’ve got to continue to work hard,” said QB Jameis Winston. “It’s a week-to-week league and we’ve got to continue to give our best every single week. The guys are going to continue to do that and, Lord willing, we’re going to continue to get victories.”
It took an impressive effort by Tampa Bay’s defense to get that split against the Panthers. Two of Adams’ interceptions came in the fourth quarter as the Buccaneers clung to a seven-point lead and turned back Newton and the Panthers on four straight potential game-tying drives. It wasn’t over until De’Vante Harris knocked down a second consecutive Hail Mary pass attempt thrown by backup QB Taylor Heinicke, who came in specifically to heave it all the way to the end zone from midfield.
“It’s our game,” said Adams of the defense’s mentality throughout that tense fourth quarter. “The offense had 24 points and our goal is to keep them under 19, so the game was on us, essentially. The offense did a great job and 24 points was enough for us to win, so the game was in our hands.”
The Buccaneers also sacked Newton four times, collective four sacks for the third straight game, hit him nine times and broke up 10 passes on the day. Carolina’s high-powered offense range up 444 total net yards, including 168 on the ground on just 19 carries, but the Buccaneers’ defense bent without breaking. In addition to those four takeaways, Tampa Bay’s defense also only allowed Carolina to convert on three of its eight third-down tries. That included a third-and-five from midfield with less than three minutes to play, as Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Newton, pushing his season sack total to 11.5. Carolina went for it on fourth down but Newton overthrew WR Devin Funchess deep down the middle.
“You can’t say enough about [the defense],” said WR Chris Godwin, who started in place of an injured DeSean Jackson and had his third career 100-yard game with five catches for 101 yards. “Our defense, we think they’ve been playing great all year, especially these last couple weeks. They’ve been forcing a lot more turnovers and they’ve given us extra possessions. I couldn’t be prouder of those guys.”