What it means: The Bucs were within 12 seconds of being a .500 team. Instead, Vincent Jackson caught a late touchdown pass and Tampa Bay scored in overtime to improve to 6-4 on a day when the offense wasn’t quite as explosive or efficient as it was in the past five weeks. It wasn’t a particularly pretty win against a bad team, but the Bucs remain very much in the playoff hunt. For the Panthers, this might have been the low point of a season that’s been filled with crushing losses. Carolina led by 11 points with less than five minutes remaining and managed to squander that lead. The Panthers are 2-8, which guarantees they’ll continue their streak of non-winning seasons that started in 2009. That’s about the only thing that’s guaranteed. As the losses pile up, the futures of coach Ron Rivera, his assistants and many of the players become more and more uncertain.
Dougernaut: With 138 rushing yards and four receptions for 23 yards, Doug Martin continues to make his case for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In fact, I think I’ll call up AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky sometime soon and see if he wants to do a Double Coverage debate on Martin versus Andrew Luck as the top offensive rookie. Heck, we might have to loop in NFC East guru Dan Graziano and make it a Triple Coverage. But I feel pretty confident I can make a strong case that Martin has had a bigger impact than Luck or Robert Griffin III.
Not all about Newton: The natural instinct for fans at any level of football is to blame the quarterback when a team loses. But Cam Newton doesn’t deserve the blame for Carolina’s collapse. He completed 16 of 29 passes for 252 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions and added 40 rushing yards. If Carolina’s defense had been able to come up with one stop late in the game, we might be talking about what an efficient game Newton had.
What’s next: The Bucs host the division-leading Atlanta Falcons next Sunday. The Panthers travel to Philadelphia for a Monday night game on Nov. 26.