Jameis Winston was sacked seven times in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 37-26 loss to Carolina on Sunday in London. He was pressured throughout the afternoon, which played a part in his six giveaways, which included five interceptions and one lost fumble. It's safe to assume that at least one of those breakdowns in the backfield was a key moment in the game.
Indeed, one of the first times Winston ended up on the ground was also the last time his team was favored to get the victory on Sunday, according to in-game win probability calculations. The Buccaneers did continue to fight to the end, rallying at one point from 24 points down to make it a two-score game, but a muffed punt by Bobo Wilson with 10 minutes to play essentially ended those comeback notions. The outcome that seemed predictable five minutes into the game, at least according to win probability, did indeed come to pass.
This season, we're looking for the final Turning Point in every game. After each Buccaneers contest we're going to find the moment when things swung in favor of the eventual winner and never swung back. We're going to do so using the "Win Probability" charts on ESPN.com. At any given point in the game, that chart displays the percentage that each team could be expected to win, based on data from similar situations in thousands of historical games. Unless one team gets above 50% at the very beginning of the game and never dips below that mark, there is going to be a single point where the team that eventually wins goes from underdog to favorite for the final time.
Week Six Turning Point: Jameis Winston Is Sacked for the First of Seven Times
Outcome: Carolina 37, Tampa Bay 26
· Panthers kick a field goal (Joey Slye) at 13:25 of the first quarter for a 3-0 lead
The Buccaneers had the ball first, but not for long. Winston's first-down pass attempt was a curl to Mike Evans in the left flat, a decision that Head Coach Bruce Arians said was the right read, given the coverage. However, cornerback James Bradberry got to the ball first and intercepted it just before Evans could get his hands on the ball; Arians said both the quarterback and the receiver were at fault, the former for the pass being a bit of target and the latter for not coming back to the ball more aggressively. Whatever the reason, the turnover immediately improved Carolina's win probability from 50.4% to 54.4%.
Tampa Bay's defense did a fine job after the giveaway, forcing the Panthers to try a field goal from two yards farther back than where Bradberry intercepted the ball. In fact, after Lavonte David stopped Christian McCaffrey for a loss of three yards on a screen pass to the right on second down, the line on the win probability chart briefly kissed the stripe down the middle, calling it a tie. Joey Slye's 49-yard field goal, however, bumped it back up to 54.3% in the Panthers' favor.
Still, the turnover proved to be a relatively small setback. Carolina's win probability bumped up to 58.9% after its defense forced a three-and-out on the next possession, but the Buccaneers quickly forced a return punt and Winston started the following drive with a 17-yard completion to Godwin. With the ball now almost to midfield and the Bucs only down by three with most of the game still ahead, fortune favored the Buccaneers for just a second. After Godwin's catch, the win probability chart deemed that Tampa Bay was the favorite by 51.0%.
Like the Bucs' first drive, however, that didn't last long. On the next play, former Buccaneer Gerald McCoy sacked Winston for a loss of seven on a long-developing play. Winston would also get sacked on the following play to put the Bucs into a third-and-one hole from which the drive couldn't recover, but the first QB takedown was enough to influence the win probability line to cross back over into Panther territory. After that play, Carolina was given a 55.2% chance to win. They would not fall below 50% the rest of the way.
Before the first period was over, the Panthers scored on a fourth-down McCaffrey plunge to make it 10-0, and even with three quarters left to play the "visiting team" was given a 76.1% chance of victory. The Bucs managed to get it down to 53.9% on Carl Nassib's third-down sack three minutes into the second quarter, but that's as close as it would get.