Jameis Winston in action.

Newton struggles as Panthers fall to Winston's Buccaneers

It was a forgettable night for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

THE TAMPA BAY Buccaneers thwarted a last-gasp Carolina drive in a 20-14 NFL victory over the Panthers that gave coach Bruce Arians his first victory with the team on Thursday.

In fact, the game dribbled into Friday morning thanks to a 25-minute delay in the first quarter because of an electrical storm in Charlotte, North Carolina.

On a night when both teams struggled to move the ball, Tampa Bay receiver Chris Godwin pulled down eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown and Peyton Barber ran for 82 yards and a TD.

It was an unprepossessing performance from Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, who finished with 208 passing yards but managed to avoid a turnover after throwing three interceptions in week one.

NFL / YouTube

“I managed the game,” Winston said. “I protected the football and I gave the team a chance to win and we won. A win is a win.”

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton finished with 324 passing yards, but he connected on just 25 of 51 passes and was held without a touchdown for the second straight game — while also coughing up a fumble.

Carolina scored all of their points on field goals and a safety.

On the Panthers’ final drive, Tampa Bay’s defense denied Christian McCaffrey after he took a snap out of the wildcat formation to take over on downs.

McCaffrey, who piled up 209 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opener against the Los Angeles Rams, was held to 53 total yards from scrimmage.

NFL / YouTube

The ‘Quarterback Whisperer’ finally got to Winston

Bruce Arians is known for his ability to fix quarterbacks. He has helped develop Pro Bowl signal-callers Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer. Now, Arians is tasked with turning around Winston’s career.

Winston – the first overall pick in the 2015 draft – has underperformed after his Pro Bowl rookie season. Since joining the NFL, he has the most turnovers (79) and interceptions (61) in the NFL and is tied for the most fumbles lost (18) and his first game of the 2019 season did not look promising. He threw three interceptions while completing just over 55 per cent of his passes in last week’s 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Normally, a quick turnaround to a Thursday night game would fatigue most players. But it seemed to do the opposite for a seemingly energised Winston.

He finished the game 16-of-25 passing for 208 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin.

Newton shut down by Bucs defense

Like Winston, Panthers QB Newton needed a big night. Unlike Winston, he was unable to do so against a tough Buccaneers defense.

Now how much was Newton self-sabotaging and how much was the effort of Tampa Bay, which has turned around under the leadership of Todd Bowles, is up for debate. But at the end of the night, Newton was sacked three times and had the ball punched out by the Bucs, who then recovered the fumble. He completed 25 of his 51 passes in the loss.

On its own, it could be chalked up to a poor night. But consecutive ineffective games is a troubling sign for the seemingly healthy Newton.

Did the Panthers ruin their playoff chances?

This is not a first, or second, week overreaction. Now that the Panthers are 0-2, they have a 12 per cent chance of making it to the postseason. The odds — unless they become the 2018 Houston Texans or Seattle Seahawks, who made the playoffs despite the dismal start — are not in their favour.

Both of Carolina’s losses came at Bank of America Stadium, which is not ideal considering four of their next five games are on the road. If wins at home are hard to come by with a struggling Newton and Christian McCaffrey, who has yet to get going, then facing the likes of the Texans and Buccaneers (again) on their turf will be a big test for the team.

© – AFP, 2019  

-Additional reporting by Omni

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