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CHARLOTTE Cheap
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, N.C. (AP) Few have ever compared Jameis
Winston to Dan Marino – until now.

Winston, who turns 24 in January, has tied the Miami Dolphins legend for the
most NFL touchdown passes before his 24th birthday with 68, according to Elias
Sports Bureau. He tied the mark with an 18-yard pass to former college teammate
Bobo Wilson, but Tampa Bay lost 22-19 .

”It doesn’t really matter if you have those games when you lose,” said
Winston, who was 21-for-27 for 367 yards and a touchdown, but three fumbles
against Carolina. ”I have to say Cheap
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, a bunch of unfortunate things just happen to
us. We just have to get better.”

Article continues below ...

Through three seasons, Winston has 41 interceptions with one game to play.
Marino had 43 picks in his first three seasons.

Still, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter called Winston a ”warrior.”

Wilson joined Florida State in 2013 with Winston, but Winston left after two
seasons. Four of Wilson’s eight college touchdown catches came from Winston. The
teammates took different roads to Tampa, Winston as a top pick and Wilson as an
undrafted free agent.

”In college, he was always good,” Wilson said of Winston. ”He’s still young
and has lots to learn, like myself Cheap
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, and we’ll keep getting better.”

REASON FOR CONCERN: Carolina’s offense had been rolling coming into the
weekend but stumbled against Tampa Bay – which could be some cause from
concern.

Carolina had just 78 yards yards at halftime – the fewest in any first half
since Cam Newton became Panthers quarterback in 2011. Carolina ran 21 plays for
an average gain of 3.7 yards and was stopped on four of its five third down
plays.

”It was self-inflicted,” Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess said. ”We
missed guys here, we missed guys there. We could never get a roll started. The
defense kept us in the game.”

McCAFFREY SETS RECORD: With his first catch Sunday, Christian McCaffrey set
the Panthers’ rookie record for receptions in a year, surpassing Kelvin
Benjamin’s 73-catch season in 2014.

The first-round pick out of Stanford had two catches for 19 yards, giving him
75 receptions for 611 yards and five scores with one game to play. McCaffrey has
also run the ball 111 times for 421 yards, providing the Panthers with a
versatile weapon.

”I didn’t know what to expect coming in,” McCaffrey said. ”All I focus on is
what I can control. That’s when the ball is in my hands Cheap
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, try to make a play and try to do whatever I
can to move the ball north.”

BYRD GROUNDED: Damiere Byrd’s 103-yard kickoff return late in the second
quarter is the longest in Panthers’ history, but the receiver’s availability
going forward is uncertain.

Byrd’s return gave the Panthers a 12-6 lead with 2:43 left in the first half,
but he injured his knee on his next return, a 20-yarder on the opening kickoff
of the third quarter. He was questionable to return, but did not. Byrd also had
a 31-yard reception Sunday and has steadily filled a larger role in the offense
after the team traded Kelvin Benjamin and Curtis Samuel went on injured
reserve.

”I don’t think it surprises anybody in this locker room what he’s been able
to do,” teammate Luke Kuechly said.

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: Tampa Bay’s loss marked its second five-game losing
streak of the season, despite the team playing better and keeping games close.
The Bucs were within a touchdown in four of those five recent losses, and seven
of 11 overall.

”We aren’t a bad football team Cheap
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,” said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
”It’s just not going our way. Look at how that (Carolina) game ended. . It’s not
like we’re getting destroyed. Even when we are down and out, we always fight
back.”

All five losses in the Bucs’ current slide came against teams fighting for
their playoff hopes. They’ll end the season hosting the Saints, who can win the
NFC South title with a victory.

Stringers Justin Parker and Eli Pacheco contributed to this report.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and
http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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