Bucs wins NFC South with 30-24 victory over Panthers

Returning home for a New Year’s Day game with the Panthers, the Bucs used the re-emergence of their trusted Tom Brady-Mike Evans connection to overcome an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 30-24, clinching the NFC South for the second time in a row. year.

Tampa Bay couldn’t have started much worse as the defense allowed Sam Darnold to go 4-of-4 for 60 yards on a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Tremble to to open the game. Then, on their first offensive possession, a Donovan Smith penalty and Mike Evans drop set the Bucs back. However, it looked like they came through with a big third-down conversion, with Tom Brady connecting with Chris Godwin. Only, after picking up a few yards after the catch, Godwin had the ball unhooked by Sam Franklin Jr.

Panthers QB Sam Darnold – Photo by: USA Today

The two teams traded punts from there until the 12-minute mark in the second quarter, when Carolina got moving again. A 15-yard pass from Darnold to Terrace Marshall put the Panthers into Bucs territory, then a fourth down conversion gave them another streak of downs on the 29. Three plays later, Darnold found DJ Moore for a 24-yard touchdown to get out. expand. the visitors’ lead to 14-0.

Just when it looked like the Bucs were dead in the water, they found a lifeline in the form of an old, reliable connection. Brady and Evans, who have struggled to connect all season, sent Raymond James Stadium into a frenzy with a 63-yard touchdown that brought Tampa Bay back within seven points. That catch too put Evans over 1,000 yards for the ninth consecutive season.

The Buccaneer defense kept the good vibes flowing on the Panthers’ ensuing possession, with Devin White recovering a Darnold fumble at the Carolina 13. On the downside, the offense only turned that into three points, giving him pleasure took on 4th & 1 of 4 with a Ryan Succop 22-yard field goal to come within 14-10 before halftime.

Out of the break, the Bucs got one down first before having to kick the ball away, forfeiting their chance for their first lead of the day. But after it seemed the Panthers were about to march off the field and expand theirs, Sean Murphy-Bunting intercepted Darnold on a deep ball. With the turnover, Tampa Bay took over on his 2 with another chance to take the lead.

Bucs Qb Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

The Bucs got moving quickly, with Brady finding Godwin 60 yards for a 13-yard run from Julio Jones. A few more passes to Godwin got the ball across midfield, then Evans moved up the ladder for a highlight at the Panthers’ 23 for another first. Later, faced with a 4th and 2-of-15, Brady found Russell Gage for a first to the 10. But three plays later, the Bucs appeared to settle for another field goal. Only this time, Succop’s punt was blocked, meaning the 15-play, 90-yard drive ended in nothing.

To make matters worse, Carolina drove straight down the field on the ensuing possession, thanks in large part to a 47-yard completion from Darnold to Moore, which beat Jamel Dean in cover. And on a 3rd and 7th early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers extended their lead. Darnold threw his third touchdown pass of the day, a 19-yarder to Shi Smith. With 2:50 to go, Carolina had an 11-point lead at 21-10.

Just when the Bucs needed something to spark another fourth-quarter comeback, they got it. Brady connected again with Evans on a deep ball, with the latter going for a 57-yard touchdown. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Tampa Bay behind 21-16 with 13:49 remaining.

On the Panthers next possession, they killed a few minutes before a game delay on 3rd-5 pushed them back. After a third-down incompletion, they punted it back to the Bucs, who took it on their own 8 and needed a touchdown to take the lead.

Bucs Wr. Michael Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: USA Today

Brady and the attack didn’t mix on the next ride and it worked to perfection. Passes to Godwin took the Bucs out of the shadows of their end zone, then Gage came through with a 21-yard catch across center field. Two plays later, Brady and Evans struck again with a 30-yard touchdown to put the Bucs ahead. And after a successful two-point conversion, Tampa Bay held a 24-21 lead with 6:47 remaining.

From there it was up to the defense and the unit got the job done with a three-and-out. Carolina kicked the ball away, returning responsibility to Brady and Co. laid to kill some clock. A first down killed a few minutes, but the Bucs soon had to kick the ball away again.

Carolina needed a field goal to force overtime, and that was the furthest thing from it. On the first play of the next drive, Anthony Nelson went to Darnold for a strip sack and Vita Vea recovered the ball at the 6. That set up a one-yard touchdown run by Brady that gave the Bucs a 30–21 lead. Still 1:58 to go. Succop’s missed extra point kept it a nine-point game, so with all three timeouts and two minutes to work with, it wasn’t over for the visitors.

The Panthers got going and moved the ball well, but burned a lot of time in the process. They eventually settled for a second field goal, putting them back within one possession with 59 seconds left. Cade Otton recovered the onside kick from there and the Bucs got Carolina to burn the last three timeouts before kicking the ball away with 26 seconds left.

Carolina took over from its own 8 after the punt and ended up going nowhere. The Bucs closed out the game and division with one week left in the regular season.

Bucs Qb Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

Brady had his best game of the season, totaling 432 yards and three touchdowns on 34-of-45 passes while adding a late rushing touchdown. Evans also came through with a tremendous performance, with 10 passes for 207 yards and three scores. Godwin also joined in the fun, posting 120 yards on nine catches.

Defensively, the Bucs forced three turnovers, scored two sacks and held the powerful Carolina ground game to just 74 yards on 22 tries (3.4 avg). Nelson and Antoine Winfield Jr. came up with the sacks, while Vea and White recovered fumbles to intercept Murphy-Bunting,

With the win, the 8-8 Bucs secured the NFC South crown for the second consecutive season. They will host the No. 5 seed during the Wild Card weekend. But first, they wrap up the regular season next week with a road trip to the Falcons (6-10) in Atlanta.

#Bucs #wins #NFC #South #victory #Panthers

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