For the second straight game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7) defense recorded four sacks to help lead the team to a 24-17 win over the Carolina Panthers. The defense also forced Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to throw four interceptions, while Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston threw two first half touchdown passes & for the second straight week didn't throw an interception.
Carolina won the toss & chose to receive the ball at the start of the second half. And like last week, the Bucs took their first possession of the game & put together a touchdown scoring drive. The drive, which ended with Winston hitting wide receiver Adam Humphries for a two yard touchdown pass, featured the Bucs quarterback completing four passes & rushing for 24 yards.
After the Bucs 11 play 70 yard touchdown drive, the Panthers (6-6) started on their own 25 yard line. But on second down & 9, quarterback Cam Newton was sacked by linebacker Kevin Minter & on the following play, back-up safety Andrew Adams grabbed a pass that was deflected into the air for an interception, setting up the Bucs inside the redzone.
Tampa Bay was unable to move ball past the Carolina 17 yard line & settled for a 35 yard field goal by kicker Cairo Santos, which gave the home team a 10-0 lead. But following the Santos field goal, Carolina got their offense going on their second possession of the game. One play after a pass interference call on Bucs linebacker Adarius Taylor, the Panthers got a big run from running back Christian McCaffrey down the left sideline, totaling 53 yards. And on first & goal from the eight, McCaffrey took a pass from Newton, scampering down the right-side into the endzone for the touchdown.
On their next possession, the Bucs managed only one first down, coming on a 10 yard run by Peyton Barber. But even after forcing a punt, the Panthers next drive included two first downs but stalled because of a sack on Newton by linebacker Lavonte David & an incomplete pass on third down by Netwon to wide receiver Curtis Samuel.
Leading 10-7, Tampa Bay looked to extend that lead & with a drive that included a 48 yard pass from Winston to wide receiver Chris Godwin, they were able to get into Carolina territory again. But after a 13 yard pass from Winston to Humphries putting Tampa Bay inside the Carolina 10 yard line, the Bucs committed their first turnover of the game when Barber fumbled the football while trying to get to the goal line on a run up the middle.
After recovering the football in the endzone, the Panthers went three & out. But after a 14 yard pass completion from Winston to wide receiver Mike Evans, the Bucs punted the ball back to the Panthers.
Faced with a three point deficit, the Panthers used a mix of Newton runs & a catch from McCaffrey to move the ball into Bucs territory. But on a second down by Newton, Bucs cornerback Javien Elliot jumped in front of a pass intended for McCaffrey & returned the interception 50 yards.
Starting at the Panthers 32 yard line, the Bucs moved the ball to the 12 after a 20 yard catch by Evans. And after an offensive holding penalty following another completion, Winston threw his second touchdown pass of the half, when he hit Godwin in the back of the right side of the endzone for a 13 yard completion.
Tampa Bay ended the first half with 207 yards & 11 first downs, while Winston was 12 for 16 with 160 yards in the first 30 minutes. But with Carolina taking the second half kickoff into Tampa Bay territory, the visitors grabbed the early momentum in the final 30 minutes. And with Newton throwing for 61 yards on the drive, Carolina got into the redzone. But first a sack by defensive end Vinny Curry then an incomplete pass by Newton on 3rd down forced Carolina to use kicker Graham Gano, who drilled a 37 yard field goal.With the help of two defensive pass interference penalties, one on a 3rd down pass to Evans & another on a long pass in the endzone intended for wide receiver Bobo Wilson, the Bucs were able to make the game a two score game when Barber punched the ball in from one yard away.
Down 14 & starting from their own eight yard line, Carolina strung together a 10 play 92 yard drive, 63 of the yards coming from a Newton pass completion & ended when the Panthers quarterback found wide receiver Devin Funchess for a 10 yard touchdown pass.
The Bucs got the ball before the end of the third quarter & moved the ball into Panthers territory. But on a third & five play, a pass attempt by Wnston to Evans fell incomplete & on the play the Bucs wide receiver was called for pass interference, his second pass interference call of the game.
With over 12 minutes left in the game, Carolina worked the ball into Tampa Bay territory. But on a first down play, while attemtping a pass to wide receiver Jarius Wright, Newtow was hit by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy & his pass was intercepted by Adams, his second interception of the game.
Less than six minutes following his second interception, Adams got his third of the game ending a 48 yard drive by the Panthers, when he stepped in front of Newton pass in the middle of the field that was intended for wide receiver Curtis Samuel.
Tampa Bay will look for their third straight win overall when they host first place New Orleans (10-2) next Sunday at 1pm. Coverage begins on 98 Rock with the pregame at 10:30am & kickoff scheduled for 1pm.