Bucs-Panthers: With Mike Evans neutralized, other receivers forced to step up

2-1 A Panthers  Bucs Preview Countdown

2-1 A Panthers Bucs Preview Countdown

Fitzpatrick and Howard connected for another score in the closing seconds of the half to cut the Carolina lead to 35-14.

To make matters worse, Tampa Bay hasn't forced a turnover in a club-record five consecutive games.

The Panthers didn't get much of a boost from their win over the Buccaneers, at least in USA TODAY's weekly National Football League power rankings.

Within those first two quarters, the team was able to get five touchdowns, showing undeniable speed, agility and cohesion on the part of the offensive line.

The Bucs' passing attack has plenty of weapons, but the team's offense begins with getting the ball in receiver Mike Evans' hands. "A lot like in the mold of D.J., he is tough to bring down".

The Buccaneers benched Jameis Winston after a dismal four-interception performance against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, opting to go with Fitzpatrick against the Panthers and then reassess.

Fitzpatrick rallied the Buccaneers from a 35-7 deficit, completing 24 of 40 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns to make it 35-28 and a one-score game in the fourth quarter, but the comeback stalled.

The loss dropped the Bucs to 2-3 in games started by Fitzpatrick.

But the return of "Fitzmagic" wasn't enough as Newton made it a two-possession game when he found Samuel, who made a leaping grab in the end zone with 9:10 left in the game.

Defensive end Julius Peppers helped Bradberry out, too.

However, Koetter said he doesn't see anything wrong with Newton's arm strength.

"If they don't focus, they'll let an opportunity like we had slip away", Newton said. Mistakes on offense and special teams contributed to falling by 28 in the second quarter.

"Ryan's our starter next week", Dirk Koetter said. "We had a breakdown in protection and that's the risk you take when you try a fake punt like that". Winston finished the game 18-of-35 for 276 yards and one touchdown to all the interceptions, while Fitzpatrick went 11-of-15 for 194 yards and two touchdowns.

"I don't know that there is an answer or a magical formula or anything; it's just frustrating right now to not play well and then play well in spurts", the quarterback added.

A Special teams: This group is usually consistent, and today was no different.

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