Buccaneers fall to Panthers
Roy Cummings, Florida Football Insiders, published 30 October 2017

Go ahead and panic Buccaneers fans. The time has come. Itís hard to imagine even Robert Ayers blaming you now. Not after what happened Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Less than a week after Ayers, the Bucs defensive end, wondered out loud why fans were ready to bag the season after a 2-4 start, the Bucs dropped a 17-3 decision to the Panthers and fell to 2-5 overall. It wasnít pretty either.

The Bucs defense bounced back from two straight sluggish performances, but the Bucs offense, which came into the game ranked first overall in the league in passing, failed yet again to find a rhythm. For the first time in the Jameis Winston era, a span of 39 games, the Bucs didnít even score a touchdown, their only score coming on a 41-yard Patrick Murray field goal.

Winston as you might expect played a big role in that, throwing two interceptions while completing 21-of-38 passes for 210 yards on a day in which the Bucs struggled to run the ball as well. Doug Martin ran 18 times for 71 yards and Winston scrambled three times for 13 but the Bucs failed repeatedly to keep drives alive as they converted just two of their 12 third-down tries.

It wasnít just the Bucs offense that struggled on third down. The defense did the same, especially early on, allowing Carolina to convert six of their 10 tries the first 30 minutes. Four of those conversions came on the Panthers second drive, which culminated with running back Jonathan Stewart leaping over the goal line from a yard out to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.

The Bucs managed to keep the Panthers pretty much in check through the end of the first half, including getting off the field just four plays after Winston lost his second fumble of the season. Winston tried to shovel a pass while being wrapped up for a sack by ageless end Julius Pepper when the ball slipped out of his hands, but the Bucs forced Carolina to punt one first down later.

The Bucs followed with a three-and-out of their own on offense and that allowed the Panthers to move down the field for a 28-yard Graham Gano field goal to cap off the first half scoring. The Bucs eventually got on the board with 4:49 left in the third quarter when Patrick Murray kicked a 41-yard field goal to cut the deficit to seven points. It wasnít long, though, before the Bucs fell back further.

After the Bucs defense got off the field quickly on two straight Panthers possessions, Newton hit Kelvin Benjamin with a 25-yard pass to give the Panthers a 17-3 lead.