CAR-TB grades: Brent Grimes earns game ball in Bucs’ win

Tampa Bay overcomes a poor game by QB Jameis Winston to beat Carolina, while Panthers QB Cam Newton also struggles.

| 5 months ago
(Joe Robbins, Getty Images)

(Joe Robbins, Getty Images)

CAR-TB grades: Brent Grimes earns game ball in Bucs’ win

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17, Carolina Panthers 16

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Bucs’ 17-16 victory over the Panthers in Week 17:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterback grade: Jameis Winston, 45.1

An ugly game from Winston was only par for the course in this game

Turnovers were rife in this game, and Jameis Winston threw an interception to Panthers CB James Bradberry as well as losing the handle on the football when scrambling out of the pocket when he was hit by DE Wes Horton. Even when kept clean in the pocket (on 28 of his 40 dropbacks), his passer rating was just 51.4, and he completed only 53.8 percent of his passes for a dismal 4.9 yards per attempt. Winston completed only five passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air, from 15 attempts.

Top offensive grades:

OT Demar Dotson, 78.0

G Ali Marpet, 75.0

OT Donovan Smith, 74.3

WR Adam Humphries, 70.6

RB Jacquizz Rodgers, 68.9

Offensive supporting cast grades poorly

When your highest-graded player is 78.0, a grade in the 60s is making the top five, and Donovan Smith is on that list, things were ugly on offense. The Bucs really didn’t get a whole lot going all game, and much of their scoring opportunity was being set up by horrible play from Panthers QB Cam Newton. Seven of their points came from Newton putting the ball in the hands of Brent Grimes, allowing him to tip-toe down the sideline for a score.

Top defensive grades:

CB Brent Grimes, 99.9

LB Lavonte David, 84.8

LB Kwon Alexander, 79.1

S Bradley McDougald, 77.5

S Chris Conte, 73.6

Grimes dominates all game long

Early in the game, Brent Grimes was all over everything that was being thrown his way. He was squatting on routes, jumping in front of receivers and notched himself a pick-six. Rather than learn the lesson and stop throwing his way, the Panthers decided he was primed for a double move, so they ran two of them at him late with the game on the line, both of which he broke up, and one of which he was in better position to catch than the receiver. Grimes was thrown at six times, allowing just three yards in coverage, and intercepted a pass, breaking up three more. The Tampa Bay linebackers also showed up, but Grimes was the player of the game.

Carolina Panthers

Quarterback grade: Cam Newton, 45.0

Rookie-like mistakes cost Newton and the Panthers

When your MVP QB is making rookie mistakes, it is tough to win a game. Cam Newton was staring down receivers, throwing jump balls to players like Ted Ginn – who will never make that decision a good one by going to get it – and continually targeting a corner in Tampa Bay’s Brent Grimes who clearly had his number all day, almost as if it became a matter of pride. He did get them down the field late to set up a game-winning attempt, and was unlucky his intended receiver slipped on his cut, but in all honesty, he didn’t deserve to win given his performance.

Top offensive grades:

G Trai Turner, 86.3

OT Daryl Williams, 84.2

WR Kelvin Benjamin, 81.3

OT Mike Remmers, 74.1

G Andrew Norwell, 70.8

Offensive line plays well, but bad plays and missed kicks dug a hole for Carolina

Carolina’s offensive line played well, and Newton was rarely under much pressure (seven snaps in 35 dropbacks). The issue was Newton tossing the ball to the opposition, and seemingly intent on going after Brent Grimes, who was locking down whichever player lined up near him. When Newton went after other Bucs defenders or ran the ball, the team had more success, but the positive plays from players outside of the offensive line were too few and far between to rack up points.

Top defensive grades:

LB David Mayo, 87.2

S Michael Griffin, 84.6

CB James Bradberry, 83.2

DT Kawann Short, 80.6

DT Star Lotulelei, 79.0

Big plays bottled up the Bucs — and has Carolina been using the wrong linebacker to back up Kuechly?

The Panthers’ defense were able to force a few big plays to end Bucs drives, but the play of LB David Mayo was most notable, flashing the kind of ability he showed in college and suggesting that maybe the Panthers have had the wrong linebacker starting in place of Luke Kuechly with A.J Klein. Mayo had a team-high four defensive stops despite playing just 21 snaps, and allowed only five yards in coverage, while Klein has a season grade of 44.6. James Bradberry’s pick continued a rookie season of flashing big-time potential.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Bucs CB Brent Grimes

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

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