Pan­thers can’t count on a drib­bled shot­gun snap to beat Bucs this time

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Panthers Vs. Bucs - BY SCOTT FOWLER sfowler@char­lot­teob­server.com Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scot­t_­fowler

It was less than 11 months ago that Carolina last hosted Tampa Bay, play­ing in a Christ­mas Eve game the Pan­thers were very lucky to win.

That was a pretty dif­fer­ent Carolina team, though. For in­stance, Jerry Richard­son was the owner. Brenton Bersin was the lead­ing re­ceiver that day. Daryl Wor­ley was the Pan­thers’ No. 2 corner­back, and Tampa Bay threw at him in­ces­santly.

The Pan­thers won on a touch­down in the fi­nal minute. Cam New­ton first fum­bled the shot­gun snap, then picked it up and scored from 2 yards out. The Pan­thers es­caped with a 22-19 win.

Jameis Win­ston started for Tampa Bay that day and threw for 367 yards, although he also lost three fum­bles. While New- ton is hav­ing a far bet­ter year in 2018, Win­ston has got­ten so bad that he’s been benched for this game in fa­vor of backup Ryan Fitz­patrick.

The Pan­thers sec­ondary bet­ter lace on their run­ning shoes Sun­day, be­cause DeSean Jack­son, 31, still can fly. Jack­son has a stag­ger­ing 24 touch­downs of 60 or more yards in his ca­reer, the most in NFL his­tory from that dis­tance. He is part of a Tampa Bay of­fense that leads the NFL in to­tal yards at 467.6 per game. So af­ter play­ing the NFL’s No. 1 de­fense last week in Bal­ti­more, this time the Pan­thers are fac­ing the No. 1 of­fense.

The old­est player on Tampa Bay’s ros­ter is Fitz­patrick, who will be 36 this month. But the Pan­thers have two older po­si­tion play­ers on de­fense who will be chasing him around: Julius Pep­pers (38) andMike Adams (37).

Carolina al­most al­ways has trou­ble with Mike Evans, the Buc­ca­neers’ No. 1 wide re­ceiver. On the other hand, Tampa Bay al­most al­ways strug­gles to guard Pan­thers tight end Greg Olsen.

The Buc­ca­neers have their own ver­sion of Luke Kuechly in linebacker Lavonte David, who is a lot of fun to watch and has a real knack for turnovers. New­ton will take a look at where No. 54 is lin­ing up on every play.

Pre­dic­tion time. I moved to 5-2 last week af­ter cor­rectly pick­ing Carolina’s vic­tory over Bal­ti­more.

Of the four teams in the NFC South, Tampa Bay is the weak­est — although still dan­ger­ous with that pass-heavy of­fense that can get yardage in chunks.

Carolina at home has been a pretty sure bet lately, though, as the Pan­thers are rid­ing a ninegame win streak in Char­lotte dat­ing back to 2017. That’s tied with New Eng­land for the long­est ac­tive home win­ning streak in the league. It goes to 10 on Sun­day. My pick: Carolina 33, Tampa Bay 24.

JEFF SINER jsiner@char­lot­teob­server.com

Carolina Pan­thers quar­ter­back Cam New­ton dives across the goal line af­ter re­cov­er­ing the ball off the ground in the fi­nal sec­onds of the fourth quar­ter at Bank of Amer­ica Sta­dium on Dec. 24. The Pan­thers won 22-19.

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