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Buccaneers vs. Panthers recap: Will you still hurt me, will you still fail me when I’m sixty-four?

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The Bucs went all the way to London just to let everyone down again, falling 37-26 to limp into the bye week at 2-4.

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers - NFL International Series - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

The Buccaneers continued their insane stretch of games away from Raymond James Stadium Sunday, playing a “home game” against the division rival Panthers in London.

For the second straight week, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was set for American football. Instead of the likes of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Dele Alli and Lucas Moura gracing the pitch for the home side, it was Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Lavonte David out there looking to lead the way.

The two teams met in Charlotte back in Week 2, with Tampa Bay winning 20-14. Since then, things have changed. The Bucs haven’t managed to find any consistency, going 1-2 in their last three, while the Panthers have won three straight, all without Cam Newton.

The deck was stacked firmly against Bruce Arians and his team coming into Sunday’s game, with both Alex Cappa and Demar Dotson out injured. That meant a brand new right side of the offensive line matching up against a strong Carolina defensive line. And the defense, which had success against Christian McCaffrey back in September, was tasked with doing it again. With all of this seeming to work against any hopes of a victory, could the Bucs prevail and get back to .500 before the bye week?

The Bucs won the toss and elected to receive, but the decision quickly backfired due to a bad decision by Jameis Winston. On the first play from scrimmage, Winston threw into double coverage and got picked off by James Bradberry. The Panthers took over at the Tampa Bay 29-yard line.

Like it did for much of the Week 2 matchup in Carolina, the Buccaneer defense stood strong on the first drive. Ndamukong Suh stuffed Christian McCaffrey for a gain of one on first down, Lavonte David tackled him for a loss of three on second and Kyle Allen’s third-down pass fell incomplete. Still, the turnover turned into a 3-0 deficit as Joey Slye connected on a 49-yard field goal to put the Panthers up 3-0.

After the two teams traded punts, the Bucs took over with a chance to get things going. Going from their 31, the Bucs picked up their first first down of the day with a 17-yard pass from Winston to Chris Godwin. However, former Buc Gerald McCoy got through on the next play to drop Winston for a loss of seven to set up 2nd & 17. With that, Bruce Arians took his first timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Dontari Poe sacked Winston to force a 3rd & 21. A screen pass to Godwin on third down got 13, but that brought Pinion out to punt again.

Ryan Smith, who returned from suspension last week, made his first great special teams play of the year on Pinion’s 49-yard punt, downing it inside the 1 to give Carolina a long field to work with.

The defense couldn’t take advantage of the Panthers being backed up, allowing a couple of short runs and a six-yard slant to Moore for a first down. A 16-yard pass to Greg Olsen, a Shaquil Barrett facemask penalty and a 21-yarder to Curtis Samuel quickly got the Panthers in scoring position.

From the 33, Allen hit Moore for a 23-yard gain to the 10. McCaffrey got them to the one with back-to-back runs before Allen was stuffed on third down. Of course, Ron Rivera went for the score on fourth down and it paid off. McCaffrey looked to be stopped, but he was somehow able to reach the ball over the goal line to cap off a 12-play, 99-yard drive and give the Panthers a 10-0 lead.

The Bucs once again went nowhere on their next drive, with Winston getting sacked again on third down — this time by Brian Burns. But the offense caught a break on the ensuing punt, with Ryan Smith coming up huge again. He forced a fumble that was recovered by Kevin Minter at the Carolina 37.

After a short run by Ronald Jones II, the Bucs finally got O.J. Howard involved, hitting him on a screen that he took for 30 yards. That set up a Jones touchdown run, and after an extra point from Matt Gay — a Tottenham Hotspur fan himself — the Bucs trailed 10-7.

The defense then responded well after the 99-yard scoring drive, forcing a three-and-out. On third down, Vita Vea got through to pressure Allen and Carl Nassib finished the job with a sack.

After a block-in-the-back call on Andrew Adams, the Bucs started the next drive at their own 15. A pass from Winston to Evans picked up a first down before more offensive line ineptitude struck. Winston was sacked on second down before his elbow was hit on the next play to force an errant throw that was picked off by former Buc Javien Elliott.

The turnover quickly turned into points, with Allen finding McCaffrey out of the backfield for a 25-yard touchdown. Hargreaves came up to make the stop on the play, but flat-out slipped. Devin White then had a chance to stop McCaffrey, but got stiff-armed for his troubles. After the PAT, it was 17-7 Panthers.

The Bucs looked to have an answer on their next drive, with Winston trying to will the team back into the game. With first down throws to Evans, Godwin and Wilson mixed with some tough running by Barber, the offense got to Carolina’s 22 with two minutes left in the first half. Disaster struck after that, with pressure getting to Winston. He fumbled twice, losing the second one to give the ball back to Carolina.

The Bucs actually got the ball back and had their chance to get back in the game right before halftime. Winston threw a near-perfect deep ball to Evans for what could’ve been six, only it rattled off his hands, bounced up and he couldn’t hang on. Tampa Bay eventually had to punt, which was caught at midfield for a fair catch. Carolina then attempted a fair catch kick (don’t even ask...) that went wide. The Panthers took a 17-7 lead into halftime.

Carolina started the second half with possession, going from its 25. The Buccaneer defense came up with a stop to get the ball back to the offense with a chance to close the gap early in the third quarter. The offense instead went nowhere, with the pocket collapsing on Winston once again on third down.

Carolina turned the stop into points, going 39 yards in five plays to set up a 46-yard field goal by Slye. The lead was now 20-7 for the Panthers, but keeping the game at two possessions seemed like a win for the Bucs.

That was, until, Winston made another bad decision and throw, delivering the ball right to Luke Kuechly for his third interception of the day. The Panthers took advantage, scoring on an eight-yard run by Samuel to go up 27-7 in the third quarter.

The Bucs came back and got some points, though not the seven they needed to get remotely close to being back in the game. Even still, it was surely a cool moment for Matt Gay, who kicked a 54-yard field goal in the home stadium of his favorite soccer team. The Bucs cut the deficit to 27-10 with five and a half minutes left in the third quarter.

When the defense absolutely needed a stop, it didn’t get one. The Panthers went 75 yards in 10 plays, finishing off the drive with another Allen-to-Samuel touchdown. The Carolina lead was up to 34-10 early in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs tried to keep people from changing the channel — if they hadn’t already — on their next drive. Winston found a bit of a rhythm (and a facemask call) to get the unit down the field quickly. His 10-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate ended a six-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 2:04. As a bonus, the two-point conversion attempt was successful after a pass was tipped to Evans. With 12:51 to go in the game, Tampa Bay trailed 34-18.

The Bucs forced a three-and-out, but the offense followed with a three-and-out of its own. The defense came up with another quick one after that, but Bobo Wilson muffed his second straight punt, this time failing to recover. Carolina ball at the Tampa Bay 17. If the game wasn’t over before, it certainly was right then.

The defense didn’t allow a touchdown, continuing to bottle McCaffrey up. But a 29-yard field goal from Slye pushed the Carolina lead to 37-18 with 7:56 to go.

The Bucs managed to respond again and keep things a little interesting, going 75 yards on 11 plays to score again. This time, it was Dare Ogunbowale scoring from three yards out and Winston running for the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 37-26 with under five minutes to go.

Tampa Bay’s defense picked up another stop, but the offense didn’t have an answer this time. On 4th & 10 near midfield, Winston threw his fourth interception of the day. From there, Carolina ran the clock down to about 1:16 before missing a field goal.

The Bucs got the ball back, only for Winston to be picked off on a jump ball that Evans didn’t turn his head around for. That put the finishing touches on a painful, ugly day in London.

Quick Notes and Stats

  • Jameis Winston was sacked seven times in Sunday’s game. He turned the ball over six times. Not a good day for the offensive line. Not a good day for the quarterback. Winston finished the day 30-of-54 for 400 yards, a touchdown, five interceptions and a lost fumble.
  • Tampa Bay outgained Carolina 407-268, but turning the ball over seven times will lose you any game.
  • Carolina’s 99-yard scoring drive in the first quarter was the first such drive allowed by Tampa Bay since Week 9 of the 2010 season, per ESPN’s Jenna Laine.
  • Winston’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass was the 100th of his career.
  • Chris Godwin continued to impress, posting another 100-yard game. He caught 10 of his 12 targets for 151 yards.
  • Mike Evans hauled in nine of his 17 targets for 96 yards, but had a few key mistakes along the way.
  • The defense once again did a good job of containing Christian McCaffrey. He scored two touchdowns, but only managed 57 total yards on 27 touches (22 carries, five catches).
  • Carl Nassib had one sack, two quarterback hits and four tackles for loss.
  • Devin White was Tampa Bay’s leading tackler, totaling nine (eight solo), with one for a loss.
  • The Bucs ran the ball just 14 times, totaling 42 yards.

The Buccaneers (2-4) are off next week before returning to the field Oct. 27 in Tennessee against the Titans.