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Bucs at Panthers: Winners and losers

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Tampa Bay started slow again and couldn’t climb itself out of a 35-7 deficit.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

What an ugly two weeks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s really all you can say. After fighting back to get to 3-3 against Cleveland, the Bucs have fallen right on their faces in losses to Cincinnati and Carolina. Losses this team couldn’t afford.

Plain and simple, they’ve started slowly in each of the last two games and that’s led to Tampa Bay’s demise. With the state of the defense, Tampa Bay’s offense has to get off to better starts.

Instead, they’ve been limited to 9 and 14 points in the first half while scoring zero points in the first quarter in the defeats to the Bengals and Panthers. It’s an area that the coaching staff should hone in on going forward.

Winners

1. Adam Humphries

Adam Humphries had his best game of the season against Carolina and scored his first two touchdowns of 2018. The former Clemson star caught eight passes on his eight targets for 82 yards and two scores. He also rushed once for seven yards.

It’s the second straight game where Humphries has found himself heavily involved in the passing attack. He has recorded 76+ yards in three of the last four games. Humphries has been a nice check down target for both Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

2. Carl Nassib

The former Hard Knocks personality has been a nice addition to a struggling Buccaneers defense. After starting against Cleveland and Cincinnati, Nassib was back in his reserve role with Vinny Curry healthy.

That didn’t stop him from making an impact. Nassib made a tackle on third down on the Panthers first possession to force a three and out. Later, he had a sack on Cam Newton that helped Tampa Bay force its second straight three and out to begin the second half.

Nassib has recorded his only three sacks of the 2018 season in the last three games.

3. O.J. Howard

OJ Howard had the second multi-touchdown game of his career on Sunday against the Panthers. The only other time he did it was back during his rookie year in a loss to Buffalo.

Howard caught four passes for 53 yards and two scores against Carolina. Surprisingly, it was his lowest output thus far in 2018 as the tight end is beginning to develop into a consistent threat for the Bucs.

He’s on pace for 56 catches, 944 yards, and 10 touchdowns. That’d be around the numbers of some of the top tight ends in the league.

Losers

1. Mark Duffner

Tampa Bay’s defense played great against Cleveland in its first game with Duffner at the helm. They allowed no points in the first half and the Browns only scored due to a safety. The game would wind up going in the Bucs favor, 26-23.

Since then, wow, they’ve reverted back to their Mike Smith form. Tampa Bay’s defense allowed 27 points in the first half to Cincinnati and a whopping 35 to Carolina. Fun fact, in five losses this season, the Buccaneers have allowed at least 24 points in the opening half. In the three wins? They’ve allowed 24 points in the first half just once.

Something has got to change, because right now, Tampa Bay is on pace to fire its second defensive coordinator of the season.

2. Dirk Koetter

The Buccaneers are currently in last place in the NFC South and sit at No. 12 in the conference. This season hasn’t gone anything like Dirk Koetter or his staff planned for. At the halfway point, Tampa Bay has already piled up five losses. Despite a high-octane offense, the defense is just too porous to have success.

It feels like it’s been a year since the Bucs were 2-0 under the leadership of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Since then, things have turned into a disaster.

A week after Koetter benched Jameis Winston for throwing four interceptions as the offense scored just nine points in the first half, his team wasn’t any better against Carolina. Tampa Bay started out down 35-7 before scoring another touchdown with 15 seconds left in the half.

With the way things have gone, it doesn’t feel like Koetter will be here after the season unless the Buccaneers have a miraculous turnaround. One can dream, right?

3. Mike Evans

As bad as Tampa Bay’s offense was, it couldn’t get its best receiver involved to try and stem the tide. Mike Evans caught just one of his 10 targets for 16 yards against Carolina. for the 6-foot-5 receiver, it was one of the worst games of his career.

It was just the third time in his 60 games that Evans has had one or less catch. It was only the fourth time that he’s ever had 16 or fewer yards in a game. While hopefully it was an anomaly, it’s concerning to see Evans have this type of performance against a defense that got picked on by other elite receivers.