TAMPA BAY, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers short two key players–not counting Antonio Brown, who is “no longer a Buc,” as head coach Bruce Arians put it last Sunday. They lost Shaq Barrett, who was placed on COVID-19/injured reserve, and running back Ronald Jones II, a key player in the Bucs offense.
Didn’t seem to matter though–at least not in the end. It showed a little in the first quarter, but that’s where the Bucs’ wavering ended.
The Panthers wasted no time scoring, getting on the board with the first touchdown of the game halfway into the first quarter.
The Buccaneers replied with a 39-yard field goal in the second quarter, making the score 7-3 after a nearly four-minute scoring drive.
The Bucs scored again at the end of the second with running back Le’Veon Bell completing Tom Brady’s one-yard pass for the Buccaneers’ first touchdown of the game, making the score 10-7 (Bucs lead) at halftime.
Bucs wide receiver Cyril Grayson, who had been called up from the practice squad and whom everyone had their eyes on since AB’s walkout last week, was ruled out in the second quarter Sunday with a hamstring injury.
Within the first few minutes of the third quarter, the Buccaneers got their next touchdown, with Brady handing off to Ke’Shawn Vaughn for a two-yard run up the middle into the end zone, bringing the score to 17-7 early in the third.
The Buccaneers announced during the game that wide receiver Mike Evans made NFL history as the first wide receiver to make 1,000 receptions in each of his eight seasons.
The Panthers scored again late in the third quarter with Lirim Hajrullahu’s 35-yard field goal.
The Bucs got their next touchdown early in the fourth with Brady’s four-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans, making the score 24-10.
The Panthers answered with their next touchdown at 10:34 in the fourth, with Sam Darnold’s 19-yard pass to wide receiver Robby Anderson. With the extra point, Carolina shrank Tampa Bay’s lead to 24-17.
With just over seven minutes left in the game, Brady found Evans again for another touchdown in a three-minute drive, this time with a 20-yard touchdown pass. The Bucs widened the lead again to 31-17.
Adding insult to injury, Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. recovered a Panthers fumble, putting the ball back in the Bucs’ possession. At 5:09, Ryan Succop kicked a successful 40-yard field goal, driving the nail deeper into Carolina’s coffin 34-17.
The Bucs wanted to ensure their victory, so they did. In one play. Blain Gabbert found wide receiver Scotty Miller for a 33-yard touchdown run, raising the score to 41-17.
With less than four minutes left in the game, Bucs safety Andrew Adams intercepted Darnold’s pass intended for Robbie Anderson. The Bucs didn’t score again, and with the ball in their possession, Carolina couldn’t either. Final score: 41-17 Bucs.
The Buccaneers secured their No. 2 playoff spot with Sunday’s win.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | email@example.com