Remember when Newton was the league’s MVP and took the Panthers to the Super Bowl in the 2015 season? Remember when the Panthers resembled contenders in the first half of last season? Even that’s a fading memory. They’ve gone 1-9 since , following last season’s 6-2 start with a 1-7 finish and beginning this season with defeats to the Los Angeles Rams and the Buccaneers.
Losing to the Rams, the defending NFC champs, is one thing. Losing at home to the Buccaneers is quite another.
Newton spent this week answering questions about his surgically repaired shoulder after failing to have a completion longer than 17 yards against the Rams. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder in January, less than two years after undergoing surgery on that same right shoulder for a partially torn rotator cuff.
He said during the week that he felt good. The questioning about the soundness of his shoulder had become bothersome, he said. He joked that the Panthers had not thrown the ball down the field against the Rams because offensive coordinator Norv Turner must have drafted tailback Christian McCaffrey, and not him, in his fantasy league.
Newton did connect on some throws down the field Thursday night, teaming with tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Curtis Samuel for some big gains. He had 333 passing yards. But there were other issues. Newton’s accuracy wasn’t good. He connected on only 25 of 51 passes. He made many errant throws and also lost a fumble. The Panthers scored on only four field goals and a safety.
Newton also suffered a foot injury during the preseason. He had zero rushing yards on two carries Thursday and now has minus-two rushing yards on five carries this season. On the game’s biggest play Thursday — fourth down and less than a yard from the Tampa 2-yard line with just more than a minute to play — the Panthers put the ball in the hands of McCaffrey, not Newton. McCaffrey was stopped for no gain after taking a gadget-play direct snap.
“We had every opportunity,” Panthers Coach Ron Rivera said at his postgame news conference. “We thought we could at least get the first down. And unfortunately we didn’t.”
Rivera was adamant that the play call was not made because of the soundness of Newton’s foot.
“Don’t even worry about the foot,” Rivera said. “The foot’s got nothing to do with it, okay?”
Not everyone is convinced it’s such a non-issue. Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin said on the NFL Network’s postgame show it’s clear to him that Newton is playing hurt.
“There is no doubt,” Irvin said. “There is no doubt now. I don’t think it’s his arm. I think it’s his leg. ... He’s out there, I think, like Greg Olsen. They’re fighting for their team and they’re not 100 percent.”
It was the Panthers’ third failed fourth-down attempt of the game. They also went three for 14 on third-down conversions.
The Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston outplayed Newton in a matchup of former Heisman Trophy winners and top overall NFL draft picks. Winston rebounded from his three-interception performance in Week 1 with a turnover-free outing. He threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Godwin. Tailback Peyton Barber added a touchdown run for the Buccaneers, who evened their record at 1-1 with their first victory under their new head coach, Bruce Arians.
“Our defense [did] a great job all night,” Winston said on the NFL Network’s postgame set. “We just had to protect the football and we got a great win.”
FINAL: Buccaneers 20, Panthers 14
Jameis Winston threw for 208 yards and a touchdown, Tampa Bay held Cam Newton in check and came up with a late goal-line stand — on a fourth down play from the 2-yard-line, the Bucs stopped Christian McCaffrey after he took a snap out of the wildcat formation to take over on downs — and the Buccaneers beat the Carolina Panthers to give Coach Bruce Arians his first victory with the team.
Another failed fourth down for Carolina: For the second time in this game, the Panthers failed on a fourth-down attempt. Newton, under pressure from the Barrett, threw incomplete on fourth and 1 from the Tampa 45-yard line. The Panthers also have failed to convert on their last eight third-down chances. (Bucs 17, Panthers 14 with 11:39 left in the 4th quarter)
Safety for Panthers: A Panthers’ punt pinned the Buccaneers deep in their own territory and set up a Carolina safety. Linebacker Luke Kuechly tackled Tampa running back Peyton Barber in the end zone on a second-down carry from the 2-yard line. (Bucs 17, Panthers 14 with 13:21 left in the 4th quarter)
Missed opportunity for Tampa: The Buccaneers had a chance to add to their lead after recovering a fumble by Newton (soon after an interception thrown by Newton was negated by a defensive holding penalty). But rookie kicker Matt Gay missed a 42-yard field goal try wide right as time expired in the third quarter, one play after the football went through Breshad Perriman’s hands on a would-be touchdown catch. That was a well-thrown pass by Winston that probably should have been caught. (Bucs 17, Panthers 12 at end of 3rd quarter)
Bucs back in front: The Buccaneers are getting touchdowns; the Panthers are getting field goals. After Carolina moved in front on the fourth field goal of the night by rookie kicker Joey Slye, Tampa responded with a touchdown drive. A personal foul on Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, playing his first game against his former team, aided the Buccaneers’ cause. Barber finished the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run. (Bucs 17, Panthers 12 with 4:20 left in the 3rd quarter)
Panthers take the lead: Slye has been lucky as well as good on this night. His fourth field goal, a 51-yarder, came on a carom, with the football going through the goal posts after deflecting off the right upright. Newton had a 41-yard completion to tight end Greg Olsen on the drive but was sacked on consecutive plays by Barrett soon afterward. Olsen is playing with an ailing back but has already topped 100 receiving yards in the game. Barrett has three sacks for Tampa. (Panthers 12, Bucs 10 with 7:51 left in the 3rd quarter)
No call for Newton: The Panthers punted on their opening possession of the second half after Newton was hit in the head on a third-down incompletion without getting a roughing-the-passer call. The lack of such calls drawn by Newton has been an issue in the past. Newton had a 33-yard completion to Olsen to start the drive but was sacked on the next play. (Bucs 10, Panthers 9 with 13:22 left in the 3rd quarter)
At the half in Charlotte: The attractiveness of Thursday Night Football is not that the play on the field, usually, is all that great. It’s that the game is the only NFL offering of the night. This Buccaneers-Panthers game is a matchup of 0-1 teams on a stormy night in Charlotte. The first half included a weather delay, muffed punts, false starts and field goals instead of touchdowns. But things did pick up a bit toward the end of the half with Winston’s 20-yard strike to Godwin giving the Buccaneers the game’s first touchdown. Slye connected on his third field goal of the evening, a 54-yarder, to get the Panthers back to within 10-9 at the break. Winston is outplaying Newton to this point, completing 11 of 14 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Newton had a 44-yard completion to Samuel but also has had some errant throws in a 14-for-26, 161-yard first half. (Bucs 10, Panthers 9 at halftime)
An actual touchdown: Just when this game was in jeopardy of becoming a Thursday Night Football snooze-fest, the Buccaneers produced the game’s first touchdown. Winston threw a strike to wide receiver Godwin for a 20-yard score. Winston also had a 41-yard completion to wideout Mike Evans on the drive and is at 11-for-14 for 146 yards passing. (Bucs 10, Panthers 6 with 1:20 left in the 2nd quarter)
It’s a FG-fest: Slye, connected on his second field goal of the night, a 37-yarder, to give the Panthers the lead. It was set up by a 39-yard punt return by Ray-Ray McCloud. This game needs to have something interesting happen … soon. (Panthers 6, Bucs 3 with 8:26 left in the 2nd quarter)
Newton throws deep: Who said Newton can’t throw the deep pass any more? The questions about Newton’s surgically repaired right shoulder continued after he didn’t have a completion longer than 17 yards in the season opener. But he made a 44-yard connection to wide receiver Samuel on the Panthers’ first offensive play following Tampa Bay’s field goal. The Panthers, however, could convert that only into a 32-yard field goal by Slye. The Buccaneers have ruled out rookie linebacker Devin White for the remainder of the game because of a knee injury. (Bucs 3, Panthers 3, with 2:52 left in the 1st quarter)
Bucs score first: Tampa had a short field on offense, taking possession at its 49-yard line following the fourth-down stop of the Panthers before the weather delay. The Buccaneers got a 22-yard completion from Winston to wide receiver Godwin but ultimately had a settle for a 40-yard field goal by rookie kicker Matt Gay, a fifth-round draft pick. (Bucs 3, Panthers 0 with 5:36 left in the 1st quarter)
Play resumes: The game is back on following a 27-minute weather delay. White came back to the field to test the knee injury that he suffered before the game was delayed, but then returned to the locker room. (Bucs 0, Panthers 0 with 7:50 remaining in the 1st quarter)
Game scheduled to resume: Play is scheduled to resume at 9:05 p.m. Eastern time. White, the fifth overall selection in the NFL draft, was seen jogging to the locker room for the weather delay. He’d left the field before the game was halted, and was taken to the medical tent on the sideline. (Bucs 0, Panthers 0 with 8:31 remaining in the first quarter)
Play suspended: The game has been suspended because of storms in the Charlotte area. The teams have left the field. (Bucs 0, Panthers 0 with 8:31 left in the 1st quarter)
Gamble by ‘Riverboat Ron’ fails: A fourth-down gamble by Panthers Coach Ron Rivera early in the game failed. Rivera left his offense on the field on fourth and 1 from the Tampa 47-yard line, but Newton was stopped short of the first down on a quarterback keeper. Remember, Newton suffered an ankle injury during the preseason. He had only three carries for minus-two yards in the regular season opener. And he didn’t seem to run with his usual forcefulness on that play. Rivera doubled down on his gamble with an instant replay challenge of the spot of the ball that failed. (Bucs 0, Panthers 0 with 8:31 left in the 1st quarter)
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