TAMPA — The Bucs' loss to Carolina was full of disappointment for players and fans, but here are five things you might have missed.
1 For the second week in a row, the Bucs relied heavily on one receiver and saw him go over 100 yards, but the statistics don't show the ones that got away.
Vincent Jackson, overlooked last week, had 15 targets Sunday, finishing with 10 catches for 147 yards and a late touchdown. When the Bucs needed a catch most, however, he and Jameis Winston failed to connect, three times in a row....
TAMPA — In a day full of mistakes and misses, the play that knocked the air out of the Bucs on Sunday came early in the third quarter, when Tampa Bay, trailing by just seven, forced a fumble by Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart, only to see the ball pop into the hands of TE Ed Dickson, who rumbled 57 yards for a touchdown.
"You create a fumble and you expect it to be a big play for your defense, and it turns out to be a big play for them," S Chris Conte said. "I guess that's just the way things went for us."...
TAMPA -- Five Bucs turnovers led to 27 points for Carolina, and Kyle Brindza missed another two field goals as the Panthers pulled away to a 37-23 win over the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs (1-3) dropped their 11th straight home game, with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston throwing four interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Cam Newton threw two touchdowns to receiver Teddy Ginn for Carolina (4-0).
For the second week in a row, the Bucs were hurt by missed field goals from Brindza, who missed three field goals and an extra point in last week's 19-9 loss to Houston.
Down 17-10, the Bucs drove inside the Carolina 15, only to see Brindza miss a 29-yard field goal at the end of the half. The Bucs forced a fumble on the first play of the second half and drove inside the Carolina 20, but took a sack and saw Brindza miss again from 43 yards.
Then Carolina put the game away -- the Bucs again forced a fumble from running back Jonathan Stewart, but it popped right into the arms of tight end Ed Dickson, who rumbled 57 yards for a touchdown.
Winston then threw his third interception -- second by Panthers cornerback Josh Norman -- to set up a 12-yard touchdown from Newton to Ted Ginn for a 31-10 lead midway through the third.
From the start, the story was Carolina scoring off Tampa Bay turnovers -- the Bucs fumbled the snap on their second play, setting up a 24-yard Graham Gano field goal.
Three plays later, Winston was picked off by Norman, who returned the interception 46 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
Carolina led 17-3 after Newton hit Ginn for a touchdown after another Winston interception, but the Bucs rallied back, with Winston going 6-for-6 for 67 yards on a drive capped by Doug Martin's 5-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 17-10....
The Bucs have a season-high five players out with injuries for today's home game against the Panthers, with cornerback Johnthan Banks (knee) perhaps the biggest loss for Tampa Bay.
The Bucs will also be without center Evan Smith (ankle) and tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) and Luke Stocker (hip), with receiver Russell Shepard, the team's top special-teams tackler, out with a hamstring injury. Safety Major Wright and No. 3 quarterback Ryan Griffin are also inactive for the game....
The Bucs honor the first of two new members going into the team's Ring of Honor this season — Doug Williams gets his day Dec. 6 — by paying tribute to fullback Mike Alstott at halftime of today's game.
All fans in attendance will receive a commemorative coin celebrating Alstott's career — Derrick Brooks did get a bobblehead last season, but the Bucs already gave out an Alstott "A-Train" bobblehead on "Mike Alstott Night" in 2008....
With one injury trumping another, the Bucs have made a late-week roster switch, promoting undrafted rookie cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah from the practice squad and waiving tackle Reid Fragel, who had been promoted earlier this week.
The Bucs need Adjei-Barimah because starting corner Johnthan Banks hasn't practiced all week with a knee injury and is likely inactive for Sunday's game against Carolina. Fragel had been promoted because rookie tackle Donovan Smith had a knee injury, but he's returned to practice and is now expected to start as normal against the Panthers....
One name you'll likely hear a lot in the Bucs-Panthers game is Carolina tight end Greg Olsen, who played four years for Lovie Smith with the Bears from 2007-10.
Olsen had perhaps his best season under Smith, catching eight touchdowns in 2009, but he has blossomed as a pass-catcher in Carolina. In four seasons in Chicago, his lone 100-yard game came in a playoff game, while he now has had five 100-yard games in four-plus seasons in Carolina....
Some areas where the Bucs need to improve most happen to line up with strengths for the Panthers, making the key areas that much more important — if difficult — for Tampa Bay as it seeks its first home win.
Establish a running game? Huge for the Bucs, but they'll have to do so against the NFL's No. 4 rush defense, giving up just 75.7 yards per game. Last week, the Bucs had just 8 yards on nine carries in the first half, setting up third-and-long situations for the entire half....
Being a quarterback taken No. 1 overall in the draft isn't as rare as it used to be.
Last time the Bucs took a QB at No. 1 — Vinny Testaverde in 1987 — there were only two such QBs in the NFL, with John Elway (1983) as the other. Testaverde would have to wait until his fourth season to face another QB taken No. 1 overall in Dallas' Troy Aikman, who came to Tampa and, yes, beat the Bucs with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass....
TAMPA — Bucs RB Doug Martin, held out of Thursday's practice after injuring his knee in Wednesday's drills, was back with a helmet on at Friday's practice, confident he will be able to play in Sunday's home game against Carolina.
"It's fine. I'll be perfect for Sunday," said Martin, who was upgraded to limited participation and listed as questionable for Sunday.
And while Martin returned, four other players did not Friday and are unlikely to play after missing practice all week: CB Johnthan Banks (knee), C Evan Smith (ankle) and TEs Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) and Luke Stocker (hip) were all listed as doubtful....
Bucs rookies continue to garner league-wide honors, with linebacker Kwon Alexander voted as Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week, one week after Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston earned the honor.
Alexander, a fourth-round pick from LSU who has played every defensive snap in the Bucs' first three games, had 10 tackles in the Bucs' loss at Houston, as well as his first career interception.
The Bucs had won the weekly honor just five times from 2002-14 -- three from Carnell "Cadillac" Williams in 2005 -- and now have won in back-to-back weeks. It's the first time two different Bucs have won the honor in the same season....
TAMPA — Alterraun Verner came to town last year among the Bucs' biggest free agent additions, a Pro Bowl cornerback proudly signed to a four-year, $26 million contract.
On Sunday, for the first time in four years, he found himself on the bench, relegated to a backup role and busy on special teams kick coverage. That role is unlikely to change this week — at Friday's walkthrough, he wore a scout-team jersey, simulating an opposing receiver for the Bucs' starting secondary....
Bucs RB Doug Martin, held out of Thursday's practice after injuring his knee in Wednesday's drills, was back with a helmet on at Friday's practice, an encouraging sign he will be able to play in Sunday's home game against Carolina.
"It's fine. I'll be perfect for Sunday," Martin said after practice.
And while Martin returned, four Bucs did not Friday and are unlikely to play after missing practice all week: CB Johnthan Banks, C Evan Smith and TEs Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Luke Stocker....
TAMPA — Just as one key offensive starter returned to practice Thursday for the Bucs, another is suddenly sidelined.
Rookie LT Donovan Smith, held out with a knee injury Wednesday, was back participating on a limited basis Thursday afternoon, but RB Doug Martin was sidelined.
Coach Lovie Smith said Martin "hit his knee" in practice Wednesday and was held out. "Should be okay," Smith said....
Of all the coaches on the Bucs staff who can speak to the greatness of defensive end Jared Allen -- who will make his Panthers debut in Tampa on Sunday -- it probably starts with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who was in Minnesota for all six of Allen's seasons with the Vikings.
Allen had 84.5 sacks in those six seasons, along with 16 forced fumbles, peaking with a 22-sack season in 2011 when Frazier was Minnesota's head coach. And yet when Frazier was asked about Allen on Thursday, he acknowledged he might not be the same pass-rusher he once was, perhaps sending some motivational bulletin-board material up to Charlotte....