CHARLOTTE, N.C. — ’Twas the night before Christmas, and all was not quiet in the Bucs house. Bad penalties, bad special teams, bad calls and bad breaks. Add it all up and it was a giant lump of coal in the Bucs’ stocking. A loss, that is. Another loss. That’s five in a row for a team that’s now 4-11. I’ve made a list and checked it twice to find out who was naughty and what wasn’t nice from the Bucs’ 22-19 loss to the Panthers.
NOT SO SPECIAL
The Bucs were better than the Panthers on offense. They were better than Carolina on defense. Where Tampa Bay was not better was on special teams. The Bucs loused up three plays on special teams that produced a 12-point swing.
They allowed a 103-yard kickoff return in the second quarter that gave Carolina a 12-6 lead. Later, they committed a pass interference on a fake punt and that set up a Panthers field goal. And Murray missed a 51-yard field goal with three minutes left that would have given Tampa Bay a seven-point lead and probably would have led to at least overtime. That’s back-to-back weeks that Murray has missed big kicks. GRADE: D.
Some reputations are deserved in the NFL. Like Rob Gronkowski being a bad boy. Or Vontaze Burfict being dirty. But some reputations are not deserved and that applies to Bucs receiver Mike Evans. He was called for yet another offensive pass interference — his third in two weeks. And like one of the calls last week, he absolutely did not deserve the call Sunday. This is football. Guys on both sides occasionally get handsy (I know that’s not a real word, but work with me here.) Just because Evans is stronger than his opponents doesn’t mean he should be penalized. By the way, the officials had a lousy day for both teams. The grade for Evans reputation: U for Unsatisfactory and Undeserved.
No one would have a beef if Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had shut it down for the season. He missed last week’s game with a bum shoulder and because the Bucs aren’t playing for anything, no one could blame McCoy if he had opted to sit out the rest of the season to get healthy for next year. But just days after being named to his sixth Pro Bowl, McCoy suited and dominated. He blew up Carolina’s line all day, made life miserable for Cam Newton and recorded his sixth sack of the season. This guy is an elite football player even when the games don’t matter. GRADE: A.
How ’bout a hand for Bobo Wilson. The rookie wide receiver out of Florida State made his first NFL catch count. His 18-yard reception in the third quarter was for a touchdown. That made him the first Bucs receiver to have his first career catch be a touchdown since 2015 when Donteea Dye caught a seven-yarder for a TD against Washington. Hate to say it, but the Bucs offense didn’t miss DeSean Jackson at all. GRADE: B
What a bone-headed play by Chris Baker on Carolina’s winning drive. The Panthers were facing a fourth and 3 from the 5 when Baker jumped offside, giving Carolina a fourth and inches. And the thing was, right before the play, McCoy warned his teammates not to jump on a hard count. Carolina barely picked up the first down on the next play and scored the play after that.
Carolina might have picked up the first down or scored on the play Baker jumped offside, but fourth and inches is a lot easier than fourth and 3. GRADE: D.
Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.