Buccaneers vs. Panthers score, takeaways: Tom Brady-Mike Evans connection helps Tampa Bay clinch NFC South

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the NFC South for the second straight year with a 30-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. The Buccaneers didn’t look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders for most of the season, but that changed on Sunday. Tom Brady and his team exploded with a total of 478 yards of offense.

Brady had 432 yards and three touchdowns on 34-of-45 passes, all three of which went to Mike Evans. The star wideout saw him catch 10 passes for 207 yards and he scored 3, while Chris Godwin also caught 9 with him 120 receiving yards.

The Panthers led 14–0 in the second quarter, but scored just 10 points in the second half, with Tampa Bay dropping 20 points in the fourth quarter alone. Sam Darnold had 23 of 37 passes for 341 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception, while DJ Moore caught 6 passes for 117 yards.

So what happened on Sunday? Let’s take a look at what could be the Buccaneers’ season-changing win.

Why the Buccaneers won

The Bucs had a poor first half. The Panthers seemed more excited about the football game, but Godwin lost a fumble, Ryan Sacop missed a field goal, and Brady was visibly shaken by his teammates and himself. After that, the team as a whole calmed down and delivered their best offensive performance of the season.

Brady threw for 432 yards. He didn’t exceed his 385 yards all season. His three passing touchdowns also set a season-high. It was common knowledge that Brady and Evans were on disagreement for most of his year. That story finally died on Sunday as Evans posted season-high numbers with 10 catches, 207 yards and three touchdowns. He had three touchdowns in 14 games going into this matchup.

On Sunday, Evans had 1,000 receiving yards for the ninth straight season, tying Tim Brown for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Evans already owned his NFL record for most of his 1,000 receiving yards in his streak to kick off his NFL career.

This is the kind of offensive explosion you want to have right before the playoffs. The Bucks might be able to achieve something if they’re hot at the right time because Brady is Brady.

Why the Panthers Lost

The Carolina-leading Rusher in Donta Foreman had a surprising only 35 yards and Darnold was inconsistent. Ultimately, though, his 24 historically scored points were enough to beat the Buccaneers this season. This Panthers loss came down to defense.

How does Evans score three touchdowns and do the exact same thing? We experienced déjà vu throughout the second half because we scored. Correct, all three touchdowns he scored came on the right sideline, in man coverage, and in the same endzone. Carolina completely blew this game by just allowing Tampa Bay to drop his 20 points in the 4th quarter.

turning point

Trailing by three points with 2:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Panthers had a chance to lead a winning drive. On the first play of that “drive,” rookie left tackle Ykem Ekwonu was hit by Anthony Nelson on the edge. The Buccaneers regained the loose ball and Brady hammered in a 1-yard score a few plays later to extend their lead to 9 points with less than 2 minutes remaining.

game play

Evans had over 1,000 receiving yards for the ninth straight season thanks to three lengthy touchdown receptions for 63 yards in the second quarter, 57 yards in the fourth, and 30 yards seven minutes later.

The second touchdown allowed Evans to First player in franchise history Record a touchdown reception of 50 yards or more in the same game.


what’s next

The Panthers travel to New Orleans next week to finish the regular season against rival Saints (7-9). As for the Buccaneers, they will go to Atlanta to face Desmond Ridder and his 6-10 Falcons.

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