Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws against the New Orleans Saints on December 24, 2016 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. File photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo
Jameis Winston threw two touchdowns, the Tampa Bay defense intercepted Carolina quarterback Cam Newton four times and the Buccaneers defeated the Panthers on Sunday 24-17 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Winston completed touchdown passes to Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin, who had his third career 100-yard game. He completed 20-of-30 passes for 249 yards without an interception. Winston also led the Bucs with 48 yards rushing.
"We know that we've got to continue to work hard," Winston said after the Buccaneers improved to 4-7. "It's a week-to-week league and we've got to continue to give our best every single week. The guys are going to continue to do that and, Lord willing, we're going to continue to get victories."
Newton struggled throughout the day. He completed 28-of-41 throws for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns to go along with the four picks. It was the first time since his rookie year that Newton threw four interceptions in a game.
"I can't allow that," said Newton, who played with a sore shoulder. "I can't accept that for myself. I've just got to do a better job with my accuracy and decision-making."
Tampa Bay reserve safety Andrew Adams recorded three of the four picks. The defense also sacked Newton four times.
"The defense played great," said Adams. "The D-Line was in Cam's face all game. Without them, I wouldn't have had one interception, so a shout out to the D-Line. But I think everybody was just playing together. We kept things simple and everybody was just playing fast and playing physical. I think that was the key."
Carolina (6-6) lost for the fourth straight time.
"We just have to go out and keep playing hard and fight to the end," Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said after the game. "To get out of this hole we have to start making plays when it matters."
Christian McCaffrey had nine receptions for 55 yards and a score to go along with his 106 yards rushing.
The Panthers dominated on offense, outgaining the Buccaneers, 444 yards to 315.
But the turnovers doomed Carolina, which fell to 6-6. The Panthers also lost tight end Greg Olsen to a right foot injury.
Olsen, who did not miss a game from 2008-16, has already missed 12 games since the beginning of the 2017.
"Greg had a good week of practice and we put some things in just for him," Rivera said. "Unfortunately, he got hurt. We'll wait to hear from the doctors," he added.
Winston and the Buccaneers took the opening drive and marched 75 yards in 11 plays to strike first. The key play on the drive was an 18-yard scramble by Winston that got Tampa inside the red zone.
Winston found Adam Humphries from three yards out to give Tampa the early lead. The touchdown was Winston's 80th tying him with quarterback Josh Freeman for the most in Tampa history.
After a Cairo Santos 35-yard field goal gave the Buccaneers a 10-0 lead, Newton found McCaffrey for an 8-yard touchdown.
Graham Gano opened the third period with a 37-ayrd field goal to trim the Panthers deficit to 17-10. Winston and Godwin had an answer and the Buccaneers went back up 24-10.
Newton drove the Panthers 92 yards and found Devin Funchess from 10 yards out to get Carolina within seven at 24-17 with the entire fourth quarter to play.
Tampa Bay's defense thwarted Newton and the next two Carolina possessions ended in interceptions, and the third possession, a seven-play drive, ended on downs.
"See ball, go get ball. That's all that's in my mind," said Adams. "As soon as I see him locked-and-loaded, I'm like, 'It's mine.' When the ball's in the air, I think it's mine, it's not for the receivers. That's really all I'm thinking."
Godwin, who had a career day, was quick to credit his teammates on the defensive side for giving the offense extra possessions.
"You can't say enough about [the defense]," said Godwin, who started in place of an injured DeSean Jackson. "Our defense, we think they've been playing great all year, especially these last couple weeks. They've been forcing a lot more turnovers and they've given us extra possessions. I couldn't be prouder of those guys."