Ryan Fitzpatrick to retain Buccaneers starting QB job next week vs. Washington

Ryan Fitzpatrick played well enough to retain starting the quarterback job in Tampa Bay for another week.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick played well enough to retain starting the quarterback job in Tampa Bay for another week.

Now if “Fitzmagic” can figure out how to keep the Buccaneers from digging themselves such a big hole early in games.

Fitzpatrick replaced the struggling Jameis Winston and threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns, but it wasn’t nearly enough for the Buccaneers to overcome a 28-point first half deficit as they lost 42-28 to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions, including one in the first quarter to Eric Reid that led to Carolina’s first touchdown.

“Ryan did some good things today,” said coach Dirk Koetter, who confirmed Fitzpatrick will start against the Redskins on Sunday. “We’ve got to play better across the board.”

That includes on defense, where the Bucs have gone five games this season without forcing a turnover. They haven’t had an interception since Week 3.

“If you’re not getting any help, you better not be turning it over on offense,” Koetter said.

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Fitzpatrick didn’t get much help from his top receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, who were essentially non-factors.

Evans was blanketed all day by cornerback James Bradberry and managed just one 16-yard reception on 10 targets. Jackson saw limited playing time and caught just two passes for 32 yards against rookie Donte Jackson, who intercepted Fitzpatrick on a downfield heave late in the fourth quarter to seal Carolina’s third straight win.

It was slot receiver Adam Humphries and tight end O.J. Howard who did most of the damage. Humphries had eight catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns, while Howard hauled in four catches for 53 yards and two more scores.

Despite the loss, Humphries said Fitzpatrick never gave up — and wouldn’t let his teammates, either.

“He’s a veteran, and he knows how to bounce back and handle adversity,” Humphries said. “Even after the pick, he wasn’t shaken up at all. You could just tell he was composed and was able to put a couple good drives together.”

Said Fitzpatrick: “Yeah, there was a lot of time left in the fourth quarter there when we brought it within seven. The thing I think about in our huddle is there is always that optimism and confidence, no matter who we are playing, no matter what the score is, winning or losing, we know what we are capable of. That is always a great feeling to know that, that huddle has that kind of confidence.”

Although the Bucs (3-5) have lost four of their last five and are four games behind the Saints and three behind the Panthers in the NFC South, Fitzpatrick remains upbeat that they can turn things around in the second half of the season.

Tampa Bay hosts Washington next week and then visits the New York Giants, giving them a shot to get back to .500 on the season.

“We know we have the talent. We can’t keep digging ourselves into these holes,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick got the starting nod after Winston turned the ball over 11 times in the previous 3 ½ games after returning from a league-imposed three-game suspension. He nearly rallied the Bucs back last week against Cincinnati after replacing Winston, but the comeback fell short with the Bengals holding on for a 37-34 win.

“We go out, we get behind, we get killed in the second quarter, then rally like (heck) in the third quarter and then everybody thinks we’re back in it and then we fade off at the end,” Koetter said. “That’s definitely the pattern that we’re in. If I knew one thing to fix it I’d do it right now, but I don’t know what that is.”