Friday, November 24, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs at Panthers: 5 things you might have missed

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Bucs ended their season with a 38-10 loss at Carolina, closing the season with a four-game losing streak, but here are five things you might have missed.

1 Lavonte David went out strong. In the first quarter, he recovered a fumble forced by Alterraun Verner to set up a field goal and a 3-0 lead for the Bucs. In the third quarter, he forced and recovered another fumble, and he almost had a third, but the Carolina player was ruled down before he fumbled.

Add in 12 tackles and a sack and David finished the season with 147 total tackles, up one from last season. He had three sacks and three interceptions, after having one and zero last season.

"Just me, going out and playing my hardest, trying to pick everybody up," said David, who had six tackles for loss in the final five games after totaling four in the first 11. "We're not where we want to be right now, so hopefully in this offseason, we can put some pieces together, everybody can learn from this season, and we can hit the ground running next year."

2 The Bucs will have the No. 9 pick in the draft. That was clinched with Sunday's loss, as were the final two games of the Bucs' schedule. By finishing fourth in the NFC South, the Bucs will play two other last-place teams, with a road game at Dallas and a home game against Chicago — that would put coach Lovie Smith against his old team for the third year in a row.

The Bucs have lost their past three games at Dallas, with the most recent win coming in 2001 at the old Texas Stadium.

3 For a defense, 70 percent isn't a good number. Lovie Smith says not to put too much into completion percentage, but Cam Newton went 21-for-26 (80.7 percent) against the Bucs, which had them finish the season with an NFL-worst and team-record-worst 70 percent for the season. Exactly 70 percent.

Speaking of 70 percent, that's how often Carolina converted on third down Sunday — 7-for-10, including a 5-for-5 success rate on third and 9 or less. The Bucs finished in the bottom three in the NFL in third-down defense, and that — likely being 26th in scoring defense — is much more telling than being 10th in total defense for keeping yards in check.

4 The Panthers are trouble for Jameis Winston. In two games against Carolina, Winston threw six interceptions this season. In the 11 games between those two games, Winston threw a total of six interceptions.

A big part of that is Carolina dominating early and forcing Winston to throw a lot. He threw 40-plus passes just three times as a rookie, but two of those times were in lopsided losses to Carolina.

Winston was 1-8 this season when he threw 30 or more passes, which speaks more to the Bucs not being in control of the game and able to run rather than a knock against Winston.

5 Doug Martin should catch more passes. The Bucs like Charles Sims as a pass-catching running back, but that shouldn't come at Martin's expense. He had seven catches for 60 yards Sunday, matching a career high for catches and getting the second-highest receiving yards of his career. In the previous six games? No more than one catch in any game, and a total of just five catches for 23 yards in the six games. Sims had nine catches for 74 yards as well, with Bucs backs combining for 16 of the team's 29 receptions, twice as much as the team's receivers.

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