Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith
On what he thought about the Panthers on tape last week versus the first 14 victories: "You know, things happen. I mean, they've been a good team all year. Sometimes things just don't go your way. You know when you beat a team the way they beat the Falcons, that next time around that team is normally going to give their best effort at home. So, a lot of things went Atlanta's way. So, I think it is as simple as that."
On Cam Newton as MVP candidate: "Do I think Cam Newton is the MVP of the league? First time that we played the Carolina Panthers, I talked about him being one of the best players. He's been one of the best players in the league for a long time, and the Panthers have the best record in football right now. Why wouldn't he be the great player on that? No one has played better than him. I've gotten a close up look at him. It would not be a surprise if he is the MVP of the league, yes."
On quarterback Jameis Winston's development during his rookie season: "Yeah, I can talk a little bit more about our team. First off, I think Jameis Winston has been outstanding. Everything you are looking for in a great quarterback, I think he has. Great leader off the field, most people don't see that. On the field, he can make all of the throws, he is smart, he's been a better runner, more mobile in the pocket than maybe I saw from his college video coming out. Again, everything you are looking for in a franchise quarterback, I think he has."
On the season of defensive tackle Kawann Short: "I think whenever you talk about a great inside player, it's a lot of times for them to be considered pass rushers, especially his position you get double teamed an awful lot. Of course he is a good run player, but what stands out to me is the amount of sacks, I think he has eleven right now. Whenever you have an inside guy that can play the run like that, but that can rush the passer. He's definitely had a Pro Bowl year, had an outstanding season and he's a good football player."
On Tampa Bay's 37-23 loss to Carolina in Week 4: "The turning point and I think what really kind of set the outcome of the game was the turnover ratio. We turned the ball over too many times. I think it was as simple as that. I thought our team played hard. I thought we were ready to play, but you can't turn the ball over initially. An interception for a touchdown put us on our heels. The bobbled ball that their tight end caught in midair. And other turnovers that we had on the offensive side of the football. I think that was a big part of it."
On motivating factors for this week's game: "We're professional football players, we have a 16-game season and it's the 16th game. You don't play a game based on what's happening after this game, it's about playing as good as you possibly can in the current game that you're playing. So, for us, we're not going to the playoffs, but this is our three-time division champ, one of the best teams in the league and if we go forward we feel like we can, we want people to see what we'll be in the future. But the best way to do that is to play well in the present, so division opponent, any time you compete you're trying to win the football game. So we have as we see it, as much to play for in this game as they do."
Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy
On what the defense has to do better this time against the Panthers: "We have to be more gap sound. We definitely have to tackle better, and we have to take the ball away more. I believe that Carolina had five takeaways on us, and I can't remember if we had any. And that was the difference in the game, so we have to definitely take the ball away better and we have to get after Cam (Newton). In my opinion, he is the MVP in the league, so he's not going to make it easy on us, so we've got to get after him."
On why Newton is the MVP: "Because of what he's done with who he has. I mean, besides Ted Ginn, I mean of course Greg Olsen is a very good talent, but when Kelvin Benjamin went down, everybody was in a panic. Like what are they going to do now? Well, the things he has been able to do, I think he has three different games with five touchdowns. That's incredible to do in one season, and what he has been able to do finishing games. Carolina has had their backs against the wall at the end of the game with the ball in his hands and he's taken them down the field to win the game numerous times this year. So, I think he's doing everything necessary to be the MVP."
On the Panthers' first loss after a 14-0 start: "Atlanta just finished the game. Carolina, they played their game, but Carolina's been in a lot of close games, they just always come out on top because they know how to finish. This time, Atlanta just finished and Carolina didn't. I think that's really just the difference."
On Carolina's offense without running back Jonathan Stewart: "He's such an extremely good running back. Very physical, hard to bring down, can make every run, can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can make you miss or he can run you over. That's hard to do and then when you have a running back at quarterback, that definitely changes everything. So, when he's in the game or when he's there, they're much better."
On Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short: "He's having a huge year, it's a career year for him. He's playing the run well, getting after the passer, just having a very dominant season, and I'm happy for him."
On rushing the passer as a defensive tackle: "You have to be able to get the guard off the spot. Guards, they like to play in a little box. You've got to make them move their feet and get them off their spot and then you can be effective. The quickest way to the quarterback is inside, so they always want to protect the inside, so you've got to get them off their spot to make them move, try to get back inside and get in the quarterback's face."
On whether he'll take it easy on new father Cam Newton: "No, I'm going to congratulate him and then tell him I've been dealing with this for years, so get used to it. I have four kids, so nobody takes it easy on me."
View the top photos by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez from Carolina's game against Tampa Bay.