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O.J. Howard Heads the Class at Finding the End Zone

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw another rally fall short on Sunday in Charlotte, as they were unable to climb out of a 35-7 first-half hole and eventually lost to the Carolina Panthers, 42-28. They did score 21 unanswered points to pull within a single score in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers countered with the game's final touchdown.

Second-year tight end O.J. Howard started that rally with a pair of touchdown receptions, marking the second time in just 22 NFL games that he has scored multiple times. Not to be outdone, wide receiver Adam Humphries followed with two touchdown grabs of his own, giving the fourth-year veteran his first career two-score game.

The dual feat that Howard and Humphries pulled off is very rare in Buccaneers history. In fact, that's just the third time two different players have each caught multiple touchdown passes in the same game for Tampa Bay. By the looks of the pattern, the next such occurrence will be in the 2026 season.

Two Buccaneers with Multiple TD Receptions in the Same Game

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Howard's two scores give him a team-high five on the season and, since the conclusion of Sunday's game marked the season's midway point, put him on pace for 10. The Buccaneers' record for touchdown catches by a tight end in a single season is eight, first set by Jimmie Giles in 1985 and then matched by Howard's current teammate, Cam Brate, in 2016.

Howard's touchdown total also ranks him among the top four among tight ends in the NFL this season, and only two off the league lead, held by Indianapolis' Eric Ebron.

Most Touchdown Receptions, Tight End, NFL, 2018

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The 19th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Howard had six touchdown receptions as a rookie, which means he has 11 in his 22 games, or exactly one every two games. Only two tight ends in the NFL have caught more touchdown passes since the start of last season than Howard, and he has done it on far fewer overall receptions.

Most Touchdown Receptions, Tight End, NFL, 2017-18

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Howard was the first tight end drafted in 2017, but the sixth offensive "skill position" player (RB, WR, TE). There were 76 skill-position players selected in that draft (32 WRs, 30 RBs, 14 TEs) but none has caught more touchdown passes so far in his young career than Howard. Only L.A. Rams wideout Cooper Kupp has as many.

Most Touchdown Receptions, Players Drafted in 2017

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The man distributing all those touchdown passes to Howard and Humphries on Sunday was quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, making his first start since Week Four. Fitzpatrick also opened the first three games of the season while Jameis Winston was serving a suspension, and in the first two he won a pair of NFC Offensive Player of the Week awards while tossing four touchdowns each in wins over New Orleans and Philadelphia. That means Fitzpatrick now has three four-TD games this year, which is the most by any quarterback in a single season in franchise history. In fact, Fitzpatrick is now just one off the Buccaneers' all-time record for four-touchdown games.

Most Games with 4+ Touchdown Passes, Buccaneers History

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Fitzpatrick is one of just four passers in the league in 2018 who have already had multiple games with four or more touchdown passes. Including the four touchdowns thrown by Jameis Winston against Atlanta in Week Six, Buccaneer quarterbacks have accounted for four of the 22 such outings in the NFL this season.

Most Games with 4+ Touchdown Passes, NFL, 2018

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Fitzpatrick and Winston have combined to throw 23 touchdown passes through the first eight games of the season, which means the team is on pace for 46 by the end of the year. That would obliterate the franchise record for most touchdown passes in a season; in fact, the current mark is already tied for the seventh-highest total in a single season.

Most Touchdown Passes, Single Season, Buccaneers Team

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(* All players who threw touchdown passes in that season listed, in order of most to least;+ Earnest Graham and Mike James were running backs)

Fitzpatrick threw for 243 yards on 24-of-40 passing against the Panthers and took three sacks for 24 yards, which means the Buccaneers' offense finished the day with 219 net passing yards. That's a low mark for Tampa Bay this season and just the second time in eight games it has failed to crack at least 340 net passing yards. However, it's hardly a low total when measured against the rest of franchise history. Coming into 2018, the Buccaneers had played 660 games and averaged 192.6 passing yards in them.

Even with that "low" point in net passing yards on the season, the Buccaneers are still fielding one of the most prolific passing attacks in NFL history. In fact, only two teams have ever had more net passing yards through the first eight games of a season than the Buccaneers do so far in 2018.

Most Net Passing Yards, First Eight Games of a Season, NFL History

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Though the Buccaneers have not been as successful this season on the ground as they have through the air, they still have put up near-record overall offensive numbers. Tampa Bay's total net yardage after eight games is also the fifth most by any team in league history.

Most Total Net Yards, First Eight Games of a Season, NFL History

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The Buccaneers' offense converted on five of 12 third-down attempts (41.7%) on Sunday in Charlotte, a rate that actually brought their season mark in that category down a bit to 46.3%, which ranks fourth in the NFL. During their second-half comeback attempt, however, the Buccaneers converted on three of five third down tries (60.0%). Tampa Bay's offense has been better in that category this season in the second half than in the first, and in fact only one team in the NFL has done a better job of converting on third down after halftime than the Buccaneers.

Best Third-Down Percentage, Second Half, NFL 2018

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