The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) pounce the Carolina Panthers (6-10) 30-24 on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers deferred the opening kickoff. Panthers took over with possession at their own 25-yard line to begin the game. The Panthers got off to a great start after a 24-yard completion to DJ Moore. The momentum continued for Carolina as Sam Darnold connected with Tommy Tremble. Carolina took a touchdown lead over Tampa Bay with 11:39 left in the opening quarter. The Bucs offense didn't do the defense any favors as Chris Godwin coughed up the football at Carolina's 33-yard line. The Panthers took over first and 10. Fortunately, the Bucs defense stood tall and forced the Panthers to punt the ball away; Deven Thompkins made the fair catch at Tampa Bay's 17-yard line. The Buccaneers were unable to generate anything on offense, Brady was sacked, and the Bucs punted the ball away. The Panthers took over with the ball at their own 24-yard line. The Panthers were unable to gain a single yard on the drive; Johnny Hekker booted the ball down to the Bucs 19-yard line. At the end of the opening quarter, Carolina led Tampa Bay 7-0.
In the second quarter, Tom Brady converted a 4th & 1 to keep the opening drive alive. However, just a few plays later Ryan Succop missed his 53-yard field goal attempt. Sam Darnold and the Panthers marched down the field and even converted a 4th down try before Darnold connected with DJ Moore, giving the Panthers a 14-0 lead over the Bucs with 7:51 remaining in the half. Tom Brady connected with Mike Evans on a 63-yard TD to not only put the Bucs on the scoreboard but to also give Evans his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Devin White and the Bucs defense recovered a Sam Darnold fumble, Ryan Succop knocked down his 22-yard FG try later on during the drive, and the Bucs trailed the Panthers 14-10 with less than 1:30 left in the first half. The Panthers led the Bucs 14-10
Sean Murphy-Bunting picked off a Sam Darnold pass at Tampa Bay's two-yard line; the Buccaneers offense marched down the field before stalling out, and Succop's FG try was blocked. The Panthers took over with possession at their 9-yard line with 3:37 left in the third quarter. The Panthers ended the third quarter hanging onto that 14-10 lead over the Buccaneers.
The Panthers were able to tack on another touchdown extending their lead, 21-10 over the Buccaneers as Darnold connected with Shi Smith on a 19-yard TD pass. The Bucs answer back with one of their own as Tom Brady finds Mike Evans on a 57-yard TD pass, narrowing the Panthers lead 21-16. Tom Brady then answered back on the following offensive possession finding Mike Evans on a 30-yard TD pass, giving the Bucs their first lead of the game, 24-21, with just over 7 minutes left in the game. Sam Darnold was strip-sacked, and the loose ball was recovered by Vita Vea at the Panthers 6-yard line. Tom Brady dove his way into the endzone to extend the Bucs lead, 30-21, over the Panthers. Succop missed his extra-point try. The Panthers did tack on a last-minute 49-yard field goal, narrowing the Bucs lead to 30-24 over the Panthers. Not only did the Bucs win, but they also win the NFC South.
The Buccaneers now prepare to face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, January 8th, in Atlanta, Georgia. Kickoff time is TBD - you can hear the game on 97.9 WXTB-FM - The Mighty 98 Rock.
PHOTO COURTESY: GETTY IMAGES