CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When Cam Newton left the shotgun and began creeping toward the line of scrimmage, Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves knew exactly what was coming.
The Bucs sniffed out a fourth-and-1 play from the 2-yard line with Hargreaves shoving Christian McCaffrey out of bounds with 1:22 left to perverse a 20-14 win over the Carolina Panthers and cap off a terrific defensive performance on Thursday night.
Jameis Winston threw for 208 yards and a touchdown, Chris Godwin had 121 yards receiving and a score and Peyton Barber ran for 82 yards, but it was the Bucs defense that won this game. Tampa Bay held the Panthers without a touchdown and limited McCaffrey to 53 total yards to give coach Bruce Arians his first victory with the team.
The goal-line stand, particularly the fourth down play, was just the icing on the cake.
As Newton cleared out of the way, McCaffrey took the direct snap from center, faked a reverse to Curtis Samuel and raced around left end but couldn’t find the edge. He tried to extend the ball, but didn’t pick up the first down as Hargreaves rode him out of bounds.
“You watch any football and you’ve seen it a few times,” Hargreaves said of the play. “Once I saw Cam walk up to the line of scrimmage and act like he was talking to me I had a pretty good idea what was going on.”
It would be hard to imagine the Panthers taking the ball out of their 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback’s hands in the past. Even Hargreaves said a few years ago, Newton “definitely, 100 percent” would have tried to run and score.
But this is a different time for the ninth-year quarterback. Although he has more TDs rushing than any other QB in the league, he has just minus-2 yards on five carries this season with two fumbles .
“He can’t take them hits like that,” Hargreaves said. “It’s going to eat his body up. So not really. We expected more throwing as he is getting older in his career.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said there is nothing wrong with Newton’s shoulder or foot that prevented him from running the ball. He believed the Panthers had the right play called.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work,” Rivera said. “That’s all I can tell. We felt good about the play.”
McCaffrey said it was his job to get into the end zone — or at least pick up the first down — and he failed.
“The ball is in my hands and I have to make that play,” McCaffrey said. “I have to get better.”
Actually the entire Panthers offense needs to get better, Newton said.
“It’s hard to look defensive guys in the eyes after a game like this because we didn’t uphold our end of the bargain,” Newton said. “All fingers are pointed back to the offense and me specifically.”
Newton finished with 324 yards passing , but was held without a touchdown for the second straight week.
The Buccaneers (1-1) got plenty of pressure on Newton with three sacks coming from Shaquil Barrett. The Panthers failed to reach the end zone, only scoring on Joey Slye’s four field goals and a safety by Luke Kuechly . They are 0-2 for the first time since the 2013 season.
Newton said it’s embarrassing being booed off the field on some third downs. He said you can’t blame the fans and “they deserve better.”
WINSTON AVOIDS TURNOVERS
After throwing two pick 6’s last week, Winston played a turnover-free game.
And with the defense playing well, that was good enough.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Arians said. “He had a hell of a week as far as mentally preparing and getting ready for this ball game. I think that’s the type of game he can play.”
NEWTON THROWS DEEP
After fielding plenty of questions about only attempting only one pass of more than 20 yards downfield in the season opener against the Rams, Newton connected on a 44-yard strike to Curtis Samuel late in the first quarter. It was one of handful of deep balls the quarterback threw.
JEERS TO CHEERS
After fumbling his first two punt return attempts, Ray-Ray McCloud was greeted with sarcastically cheers as he fielded his third punt cleanly. But the jeers quickly turned to cheers when McCloud raced up the middle of the field for a 39-yard return.
Undrafted rookie Joey Slye made all four field goals, including a 54-yarder and is now 6 of 7 on the season in place of the injured Graham Gano.
Buccaneers: Linebacker Devin White left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury and cornerback Jamel Dean suffered a lower leg injury in the third. Neither player returned to the game. Kevin Minter, who replaced White, was given the game ball after finishing with eight tackles.
Panthers: None reported.
Buccaneers: Host New York Giants on Sept. 22.
Panthers: At Arizona on Sept. 22.