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Bucs-Panthers: The best and worst from the Bucs’ 17-3 loss

By Thomas Bassinger
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (13) makes a touchdown catch over Bucs strong safety Justin Evans (21) during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]

TAMPA — The best and worst from the Bucs’ 17-3 loss to Carolina on Sunday:

BEST

• How about that Tampa Bay defense? A week after allowing the Bills to score 30 points, the Bucs held the Panthers to 17. They also held them to about 200 fewer yards. The biggest difference? Fewer explosive plays.

• Vernon Hargreaves. Because of Brent Grimes’ shoulder injury, Hargreaves returned to outside cornerback Sunday. He held his own. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw seven passes into his coverage and he allowed two receptions for 13 yards.

• Tampa Bay allowed Newton to complete only one of his five deep passes.

• In the third quarter, the Bucs rebounded from a missed pass interference call in the end zone and finished the drive with a 41-yard field goal. They didn’t complete a pass on that drive, either. They picked up 31 yards on five carries.

• Kicker Patrick Murray remains perfect. He has made all three of his field goals and all four of his extra points.

WORST

• Losing four straight. The Bucs have never made the playoffs after starting 2-5.

• The missed defensive pass interference. Halfway through the third quarter, Jameis Winston targeted DeSean Jackson deep. The pass wasn’t precise, but it was catchable. To avoid a penalty, a defender usually has to at least turn his head around to demonstrate that he’s going for the ball. The Panthers defender didn’t, and a potential game-changing 54-yard touchdown pass never materialized.

• You know how we said Newton only completed one of five deep passes? That one was a 25-yard touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin.

• Self-inflicted wounds. Early in the second quarter, a Bryan Anger punt pinned the Panthers against their own end zone. When Carolina’s drive stalled at the 7-yard line, the Bucs were poised to benefit from strong field position. And then came the penalties. An illegal block on the punt return. Then an illegal use of hands followed by a false start. Two plays after the false start, Winston lost a fumble.

• Winston’s turnovers. Three of ’em. A fumble and two interceptions. Can’t give the ball to the other team.

• Bad timing. After Winston’s first interception, the Raymond James Stadium video boards encouraged the fans to visit the team store.

• Winston vs. the Panthers blitz. When Carolina rushed an extra defender, Winston completed 10 of 19 passes, two of which were intercepted. He posted a 32.7 quarterback rating against the blitz, according to Pro Football Focus.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.

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