- The Bucs' offense got quite a few jolts throughout the game from some quieter contributors.**
The Bucs managed multiple explosive plays from a multitude of contributors. In the third quarter, linebacker Kwon Alexander nabbed the interception off a deflected pass from quarterback Cam Newton to get the ball back in the Bucs' hands early in the half. Wide receiver Mike Evans made a spectacular 36-yard catch that set up an 18-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Bobo Wilson on the ensuing drive. Fellow rookie wide receiver Chris Godwin had three catches for 98 yards, including a 70-yard gain on a short pass from Winston in the second quarter that set up a 41-yard field goal. Even receiver Freddie Martino got in on the action, juking multiple defenders on his way to a gain of 39 yards on a drive that would result in the Bucs' fourth field goal of the day.
2. Tampa Bay outgained Carolina offensively all game.
The Bucs' offense moved well with quarterback Jameis Winston at the helm. Tampa Bay managed 392 yards of total offense to Carolina's 255. It was lopsided all game with the Bucs besting the Panthers' offensive yardage 225 to 78 at the half. Winston was 21 of 27 for 367 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He had a 131.1 passer rating on the day, marking a new second-best in his career and his second consecutive game with a passer rating above 130. It was also his fifth game of over 300 yards passing, setting a new Buccaneers record.
View photos of the Buccaneers' Week 16 game against the Panthers.
- The Bucs weren't able to take advantage of multiple trips inside the red zone.**
The Bucs managed just one touchdown on six trips inside the red zone and were 0-for-2 in both goal-to-go scenarios they found themselves in. It meant kicker Patrick Murray had a busy day, making five field goal attempts and hitting all but one. The clock ran out on the Bucs at the end of the first half, when Tampa Bay settled for a field goal after getting to the Carolina 3. In the third, Mike Evans would be called on an offensive pass interference penalty at the Carolina 13, again forcing the Bucs to settle for a field goal. Despite having to settle for three, the Bucs' six trips inside the red zone were a season high.
4. The Tampa Bay defense had an all-around complete game.
The Bucs' defense seemed to be more balanced and was able to contain a potent Carolina offense with a very mobile quarterback in Cam Newton. Tampa Bay was extremely effective on third down, holding Panthers to a 31 percent conversion rate. The pass rush was also more active. After missing the Week 15 Monday night matchup with the Falcons, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy came up with a huge third down sack of quarterback Cam Newton, dropping the signal caller for 12 yards in the first quarter. The second sack on Newton came from defensive end Ryan Russell, who took the quarterback down again on third down in the fourth quarter, forcing the Panthers to punt. Safety Chris Conte led the secondary and the team with eight solo tackles and one assist, while linebacker Kwon Alexander nabbed the defense's only takeaway on the day.
5. In the end the Bucs lost the turnover battle.
Despite the Bucs defense playing well, they weren't as productive as far as takeaways went and Tampa Bay lost the turnover margin. The Panthers were able to recover three fumbles by the Bucs, one as Tampa Bay was threatening inside the red zone in the second quarter. Fortunately, Carolina was only able to capitalize in a limited capacity, coming away with just six points off the three turnovers. It was linebacker Kwon Alexander that would nab the only takeaway of the day for the Bucs as he snatched a ball that bounced off Carolina receiver Brenton Bersin's hands in the Panthers' opening drive of the third quarter. The Bucs got their first touchdown of the day off the ensuing drive.