Winston, defense ignite upswing for Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws the ball for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium.Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is on an upswing and his team is doing the same.

Winston led the Buccaneers to a 24-17 victory over their division rivals, the Carolina Panthers, on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, completing 20 of 30 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

It was the second consecutive week that he had two touchdowns without an interception and his second consecutive game with a passer rating of 114 or better. The Buccaneers won both of those games.

Winston now has 81 touchdown passes in his career, surpassing Josh Freeman for the top spot in franchise history.

He also moved up one more spot on the Buccaneers' all-time passing yards chart, leaping over Freeman, and needs 1,244 more to claim the record. He is at 13,577 yards and record-holder Vinny Testaverde had 14,820.

The Buccaneers' top-ranked passing attack was playing without the injured DeSean Jackson (thumb) and was in its second game without tight end O.J. Howard (on injured reserve with an ankle and foot injury).

Wide receivers Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries picked up the slack with a combined 12 catches for 162 yards and the two touchdowns thrown by Winston. The Buccaneers now have six different players with at least four touchdown catches this year. They have never had more than three in any one season before.

"We came out, we fought hard and we did what we were supposed to do," said Winston. "The defense created turnovers, the offense protected the football and we got a good win. Guys were just out there fighting their tails off. The grit of this team is amazing. We're just going to continue to work hard."

The Buccaneers intercepted Cam Newton four times. It was the second straight week with multiple interceptions for a Tampa Bay defense that had gone nearly eight complete games without a takeaway through Week 11.

Safety Andrew Adams had a record-tying three-interception performance. He is the first Buccaneer to intercept three passes in a game since Aqib Talib did it against Washington on Oct. 4, 2009. The only other player to accomplish that feat in franchise history is Ronde Barber, who did it twice against New Orleans and who called Sunday's game from the Fox network booth.

"The defense played great," said Adams. "The D-Line was in Cam's face all game. Without them, I wouldn't have had one interception, so a shout out to the D-Line. But I think everybody was just playing together. We kept things simple and everybody was just playing fast and playing physical. I think that was the key.”

"See ball, go get ball -- that's all that's in my mind," Adams continued about his interceptions. "As soon as I see him locked-and-loaded, I'm like, 'It's mine.' When the ball's in the air, I think it's mine, it's not for the receivers. That's really all I'm thinking."

--WR Chris Godwin, who started in place of an injured DeSean Jackson (thumb), had his third career 100-yard game with five catches for 101 yards against Carolina on Sunday.

--DE Jason Pierre-Paul’s 11.5 sacks are tied for third-most in the NFL this season.

--RT Demar Dotson (knee and hamstring) missed Sunday’s game against Carolina, which means the Buccaneers fielded a different starting offensive-line quintet for the first time this season. Third-year lineman Leonard Wester made his first career start in Dotson's absence.

--WR DeSean Jackson missed Sunday’s game because of a thumb injury. Multiple reports out of Tampa indicate Jackson is out for the season and his career with the Buccaneers is likely over.

--LB Lavonte David played Sunday after missing the previous two games with an MCL injury and he excelled with 12 tackles (10 solo) with a sack and a pass defensed.

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