Home finale leaves mistake-prone Bucs with sour taste

Unheralded Harold Jones-Quartey forces pair of turnovers in Bears' win (1:01)

Bears rookie Harold Jones-Quartey sparks Chicago's defense with two takeaways while Bucs running back Charles Sims hauls in 50-yard touchdown reception. (1:01)

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven't been able to finish, and they can't blame anyone but themselves for the December collapse.

Things that hampered the team earlier in the season -- penalties and turnovers -- played a role in its past three games, all losses. They particularly played a part in Tampa Bay's 26-21 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday. The Buccaneers had three turnovers, including one in the red zone. And while they committed just four penalties, one of them wiped out an interception and another two allowed Chicago to have a first-and-goal.

As Tampa Bay (6-9) enters its final game of the season, on the road against the Carolina Panthers, it has to find a way to minimize mistakes.

"We've just got to bounce back," quarterback Jameis Winston said. "It's the NFL; sometimes stuff happens. Obviously, we don't want it to happen to us, but it happened. We've got to be accountable and every one of those games, it's our fault.

"If you want to be great," he continued, "if you want to have a great team, you've got to make every single play count."

Some things did go right for the Bucs. The special-teams unit blocked a punt, which led to a Doug Martin touchdown. Winston threw for 295 yards to move up to the fourth-most passing yards in a season by a rookie since the 1970 merger and third-most in a season in team history (3,717).

But Tampa Bay could not get into a rhythm, running just 55 plays and having the ball for 22 minutes, 57 seconds, their second-lowest totals in each category this season. The fewest came when this losing streak began three games ago against New Orleans.

"I thought we would play a lot better than we did," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said Sunday. "It's tough to win when you do some of the things we did out there -- turnovers, starting off with that. Two fumbles, one really put them in position. We threw an interception in the end zone. It's tough duty. We had momentum early. That penalty when we got the interception really put us on our heels and we never really recovered after that."

Tampa Bay entered the game wanting to run Martin against the 26th-ranked run defense. Martin entered the game second in the league in rushing, just behind Adrian Peterson. But Martin was held to 49 yards rushing on 17 carries. He did score a touchdown, but he also had one fumble rushing and one after catching a pass.

"Yes, but that's not something he's done a lot of lately," Smith said. "Doug Martin has had an outstanding season. He didn't play his best ball today. That's why we just have to look at it like that. Some days you just don't have it and it really put our team in a hole, simple as that. It's about us bouncing back next week. That's the taste that we'll have in our mouths of how we play our last football game. This one won't be it."

But the sour taste will last at least through the week. If Tampa Bay wants to return to the playoffs, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said the team has to get better.

"It's not how we wanted to finish," McCoy said. "We definitely wanted to finish with momentum. We have an opportunity to finish next week with a win, but you get one more home game, get the chance to give fans a good taste in their mouths, and that's how you finish? It just goes to show we are not where we want to be."