Kyle Allen shines again in Panthers' fourth straight win, Jameis Winston falls apart in London

Kyle Allen still has never lost as a starting quarterback in the NFL. And he’s also never thrown a pick in a regular-season game.

In one of the more fascinating developments this season, Allen has thrived in place of an injured Cam Newton, as the Carolina Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 37-26. The Panthers controlled the game from the start but failed to put it away until late.

Allen looked sharp and in command, completing 20 of 32 passes for 227 yards and two TDs. The Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott holds the record for most pass attempts (177) prior to throwing an interception, setting that number in 2016, and the second-year Allen is closing in on that mark with 153 passes without a pick to date.

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The same could not be said for the Bucs’ Jameis Winston. He was intercepted five times — a career high — and lost one of his two fumbles in another tough performance in what has been an up-and-down pattern in his career. Winston kept fighting and had the Bucs within striking range late, but he threw his fourth pick with 2:23 remaining to seal it. The Bucs totaled seven turnovers on the day.

The Panthers are 4-2, matching the New Orleans Saints’ win total prior to their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars later in Week 6. The Bucs have now dropped two straight and fell to 2-4.

Is it possible this game signaled a change in the future QB direction of both franchises?

Carolina Panthers QB Kyle Allen has yet to lose an NFL start. (Getty Images)
Carolina Panthers QB Kyle Allen has yet to lose an NFL start. (Getty Images)

Not long ago, it would have been considered ridiculous to suggest that the undrafted Allen — not the injured Newton — might be the future face of the Carolina franchise. But recent health worries, most recently Newton’s foot injury, cloud that picture. Allen’s terrific season raises the questions of what the Panthers might do in the future with Newton, who carries a $21.1 million salary-cap hit in the final year of his deal in 2020.

Winston has some big games this season, and he came into Sunday with only two interceptions in his previous four games. But this was his second game of his season with three or more INTs and the fourth time in his 62-game career that he’s had four or more interceptions in a game. Winston is in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Can Bruce Arians turn him around in the final 10 games of the season? Or are the Bucs destined to go a different direction next season?

Of course, it wasn’t all on Winston. Mike Evans failed to catch three passes, including one brutal drop. The Buccaneers also committed three straight penalties (they had nine in the game) prior to a punt. Execution errors abounded in this ugly game. Still, there has to be a serious debate about whether Winston can become a franchise QB for this team.

With the win, the Carolina Panthers are back over .500 for the first time since last November. Last year, the Panthers started 6-2 before crashing and finishing at 7-9. Allen started in Week 17 last season and now has strung together some quality performances. He has never thrown an interception in a regular-season game and the Panthers are 5-0 when he starts over the past two seasons.

Quarterback victories is not a statistic with much merit, but the Panthers have lost eight straight with Newton starting. With the way Allen has played, is it possible that the Panthers will stick with the second-year QB over their former MVP? It’s a fascinating debate.

Newton is only 30 years old and might have some fantastic football ahead of him. But head coach Ron Rivera and GM Marty Hurney had to be feeling the heat when the Panthers fell to 0-2 to start the season with a new team owner in Dave Tepper possibly eyeing changes to the power structure. Now that the team is hot, Rivera likely is readying himself for a decision — Allen or Newton? — for after the Panthers’ Week 7 bye.

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