Charlotte, N.C. — 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 touchdowns rushing than any other quarterback 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.”
Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. added some spice to the Browns’ upcoming matchup with the Jets by accusing former Cleveland defensive coordinator Gregg Williams of getting him injured in a preseason game two years ago.
Beckham said he’s been told by Browns players that Williams, who was Cleveland’s interim coach for the final eight games last season and is now the Jets’ defensive coordinator, instructed them to “take me out of the game.”
“I had people who were here when he was here telling us, ‘If you get a chance, take a shot at him. If you can hurt him. I guarantee he’s going to leave the game hurt.’ And stuff like that,” Beckham said. “It’s fine. It’s football, in a sense.”
During the 2017 exhibition game, Beckham jumped to catch a pass and was hit low by former Browns cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun as he came down.
Beckham managed to avoid hurting his knee but sustained a severe ankle sprain, which he claims has led to other leg injuries. But Beckham believes Boddy-Calhoun acted on Williams’ instructions.
“It’s like a known rule, in preseason nobody in the NFL’s really out to do stuff like that,” Beckham said Thursday. “… So you just know who he is. That’s the man calling the plays.”
Hall of Fame nominees
Former Michigan offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson has been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2020, along with first-time eligible candidates Troy Polamalu and Patrick Willis.
The newly eligible players have a heavy defensive emphasis. Joining the Steelers’ hard-hitting safety and 49ers bone-crunching linebacker for consideration are linemen Justin Smith and John Abraham, and linebacker Lance Briggs. The other two in their initial year of eligibility are receiver Reggie Wayne and running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Finalists from 2019 who did not get enough support to be among the five modern-era players selected are, in addition to Hutchinson, receiver Isaac Bruce; running back Edgerrin James; offensive linemen Alan Faneca and Tony Boselli; defensive lineman Richard Seymour; and safeties John Lynch and Steve Atwater.
The class of 2020 will be selected in Feb. 1, 2020, the day before the Super Bowl.
Sam Darnold is sick and sidelined — likely for several weeks. Jets coach Adam Gase announced the second-year quarterback has mononucleosis and will miss at least the team’s game against the Browns on Monday night.
Trevor Siemian will start in Darnold’s place, and could be the starter moving forward until Darnold recovers.
... Washington running back Derrius Guice had right knee surgery that coach Jay Gruden called a “minor procedure.” Gruden said he isn’t sure how long Guice might be out and no decision has been made on whether to place him on injured reserve.
... The NFL suspended Bills rookie linebacker Tyrel Dodson for six games as a result of an alleged altercation with his girlfriend at a nightclub in Scottsdale, Arizona. He faces misdemeanor charges for domestic violence and disorderly conduct for the altercation, which took place on May 25.
... Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said his team is “hurting” for defensive end Chris Smith after his girlfriend was killed in an accident.
... The NFL launched the Helmet Challenge aiming to stimulate the development of a new helmet for players that outperforms, based on laboratory testing, all helmet models currently worn in the league.
... Beckham said he intends to keep sporting the $200,000 Richard Mille watch that he had on during his debut for the Browns.