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Bucs-Panthers: Jameis Winston is not the one, and other lessons learned

After suffering a 37-26 beatdown, the team should extend its stay in London, maybe indefinitely. | Thomas Bassinger

Observations from the Buccaneers’ 37-26 loss to the Panthers on Sunday in London:

1. The Bucs are desperate for a franchise quarterback. Jameis Winston is not it. Since he entered the NFL in 2015, he has been responsible for a league-high 87 giveaways, including six Sunday. Blake Bortles ranks second with 76, and Eli Manning ranks third with 74. In his career, Winston has committed at least four turnovers in five games. In the same span, no other quarterback has had more than two such games.

2. Gerald McCoy, who recorded 2½ of the Panthers’ seven sacks, praised Winston after the game. “A lot of credit goes to Jameis,” he said. That’s the truth.

3. Winston has been sacked 13 times in the Bucs’ past two games. He’s on pace to take 80 sacks, which would set a new NFL record. Texans quarterback David Carr was sacked 76 times in 2002.

4. Tampa Bay’s offensive line is only partly to blame. Winston often has looked hesitant and indecisive this season, and we saw more of the same Sunday. Though his overall time to throw has been about league average, he has held onto the ball for 2.5 seconds or longer on nearly 60 percent of his dropbacks.

5. After the Saints shut out Mike Evans last week, you expected the Bucs to feed him early and often. They didn’t waste any time, targeting him on the first play from scrimmage. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Carolina cornerback James Bradberry picked it off for the first of five Panthers interceptions. Evans caught nine of his 17 targets for 96 yards.

6. The Bucs came into the game boasting the NFL’s top rushing defense, but a credible pass defense is what truly matters in this league and Tampa Bay doesn’t have one. Kyle Allen became the third backup quarterback to beat the Bucs this season. Daniel Jones and Teddy Bridgewater were the others. The trio of second-stringers has combined to throw eight touchdown passes to only one interception and post a 116.3 passer rating.

7. It’s becoming more clear each week: Tampa Bay can’t generate a consistent pass rush without blitzing. Carolina can, and that — in addition to Winston’s turnovers — is why it won Sunday.

8. You have to wonder whether linebacker Shaquil Barrett’s groin injury is limiting his effectiveness more than he and the Bucs are letting on.

9. ESPN reported Sunday that the Cardinals have fielded trade calls for cornerback Patrick Peterson, who returns from a six-game suspension next week. Could Tampa Bay be interested? Given Peterson’s ties to coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and the Bucs’ need for a reliable defensive back, it would make sense for Tampa Bay to explore the possibility of a reunion. Whether the Bucs should execute a trade is an entirely different question, especially if it would cost them premium draft picks. Why mortgage the future for a team that, at 2-4, doesn’t look like a playoff contender? Peterson is good, but is he that much of a difference-maker?

10. Carolina’s 12-play, 99-yard touchdown drive late in the first quarter perfectly illustrated Tampa Bay’s defensive struggles. Allen completed all five of his passes on the drive for 68 yards. The Bucs have allowed only one other 99-yard touchdown drive in the past 20 years (Nov. 7, 2010 vs. the Falcons). About 75 percent of drives that start at the 1-yard line end in the offense giving the ball back to its opponents, either via a punt or turnover.

11. This loss felt an awful lot like the Bucs’ 42-28 loss to the Panthers in Carolina last season. Ugly in every phase — offense, defense, special teams, coaching and uniforms.

12. Speaking of special teams, the Panthers managed to confuse England — and presumably America, too — when they tried a 60-yard free-kick field goal at the end of the first half. Such kicks are rare — the 49ers last attempted one in 2013 — and can be attempted only after a team signals for a fair catch during a punt return. Joey Slye’s kick was no good, but you wonder whether Tampa Bay’s coaches anticipated that Carolina would try such a thing. As 620 WDAE radio host Aaron Jacobson asked on Twitter, why didn’t the Bucs punt the ball out of bounds to negate the possibility?

13. Tampa Bay has allowed at least 37 points in a loss for 12 straight seasons. It has done so an NFL-high 28 times in that span.

14. The NFL can’t keep inviting the Bucs to London, can it? Their brand of football (bad) isn’t going to help grow the game internationally (or locally). Tampa Bay is 0-3 overseas and has lost by an average of 15 points.

15. Yet another season in which the Bucs’ playoff hopes have been all but extinguished before Halloween. By the way, only one team to lose a game in London has gone on to reach the playoffs (the 2008 Chargers).

16. Is Arians regretting coming out of retirement yet?

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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