The Buccaneers got the ball first and moved it a bit, including on a reverse run play that picked up a nice chunk. An offensive pass interference short circuited the drive, and a nice breakup by Troy Hill forced a punt. The Panthers came out with the new offense and ran for zero yards and then had to dirt a bubble screen on second down. Bryce Young found Jonathan Mingo on an out for what looked like a first down, but it was questionably ruled incomplete, even after review.
The Buccaneers got a nice return on the punt and capitalized on the good field position. Baker Mayfield found Mike Evans over the head of Jaycee Horn to get inside the five. Rachaad White punched it in a couple of plays later.
As luck would have it, the skies opened up as the Panthers offense took the field. Still, the offense put together a very good drive. Chuba Hubbard had a few big runs and Bryce Young had a couple of nice completions off play action. The offense was under center much more than we’ve seen all season, and they utilized that to create more movement and play action opportunities. The first quarter ended with the Panthers inside the red zone after a Bucs unnecessary roughness penalty.
Hubbard had another good run on the first play of the second quarter to set the Panthers up on the two yard line. After an incompletion, Hubbard was blown up in the backfield, and the Panthers were forced to settle for a field goal.
The offense got the ball back quickly thanks to a 3 and out forced by the Panthers defense, but they quickly had to punt the ball back after another 3 and short run was blown up as soon as the back, this time Miles Sanders, took the handoff.
Another 3 and out and a good punt return by Ihmir Smith-Marsette set up the Panthers in good field position around midfield, but they again couldn’t do anything with the ball. On a second down play, Bryce Young was surrounded by pressure and guessed that he made Miles Sanders out to his left. Sanders was not out there, and the backwards pass trickled out of bounds for a significant loss. The Panthers did a good job downing the punt inside the 10.
The Buccaneers worked out of the shadow their goalpost, but Baker Mayfield threw up a prayer on 3rd and short to Mike Evans, who was wide open prior to the ball being released. Xavier Woods slid over and picked off the wounded duck. The offense took over and the quarterback got called for an intentional grounding after running backwards to escape from pressure on first down to make it 2nd and 25. The drive obviously had no chance of survival after that, and the Panthers were forced to punt the ball back to the Bucs with just under two minutes to play in the first half.
An ugly Bucs drive ended in the eighth punt of the first half. The Panthers started the drive with a handoff to Chuba Hubbard for a modest gain. Bryce Young found DJ Chark in the void of the Bucs cover 2 to get the Panthers into Buccaneer territory. A Bryce Young scramble would have set the Panthers up in field goal range to end the half, but it was called back for a holding penalty. The half ended with the Panthers launching the ball out of bounds to bleed the rest of the clock.
The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and did more of the same. Two ineffective runs put the Panthers in 3rd and long. Young tried to hit Stephen Sullivan as one of four stops at the sticks, and there was no room to fit the ball in.
After the defense did their part again, the Panthers started their next drive with a false start. Even though, they got it to 3rd and 2, but Young couldn’t find anyone down the field and took another sack. The defense did their part again, and the Panthers took over after four combined drives for a combined 0 yards to that point of the half.
It turned out to be the most successful drive of the day. Bryce Young found Sullivan on a back shoulder fade to pick up a third down and then hit Jonathan Mingo down the sideline to set the Panthers up inside the 10. It took two Chuba Hubbard runs to cross the goal line and put the Panthers up 10-7.
The lead was about as short lived as it could be though. Mike Evans cooked the Panthers secondary on the first play of the ensuing drive and took a deep in 75 yards for a touchdown to restore the Buccaneers’ four point advantage. To add insult to injury, Brian Burns was ejected after a tussle during the extra point attempt. After another sack ended a Panthers drive, the third quarter ended with the Bucs driving into Panthers territory.
The drive continued as the Panthers defense seemed to have run out of gas. The Buccaneers called a couple of reverses and outside runs that the Panthers struggled to keep contained. Chris Godwin ran around the right edge to the front pylon to put the Buccaneers up by two scores in the fourth quarter. That’s essentially a game clincher against this team.
A couple of strong Chuba Hubbard runs got the offense moving. They were faced with a 4th down and the game on the line, and Young found DJ Chark down the right sideline for 30 yards to set the offense up inside the 10. An Adam Thielen crosser set up Hubbard’s second touchdown of the day. Young ran in the 2-point conversion with a snazzy little spin as he crossed the line.
The defense got the ball back after Donte Jackson almost picked off Mayfield targeting Chris Godwin on an out. Two Hubbard runs set up 3rd and 1. The Panthers elected to go to the air twice. The first was thrown away, and the second was picked off as Young tried to improvise and send Adam Thielen up the field. The Bucs needed just one first down to ice the game, and they got that on a 3rd and 1 run from Rachaad White.
The offense didn’t look dramatically different than what we’ve seen all season long. There were a few more chunk plays, but the same issues with blocking, predictable route combinations, and lack of answers against pressure were still present. The running game, and Chuba Hubbard in particular, looked pretty good. But it’s hard to have a consistent offense in the NFL with only a running game. There were too many plays that got stuffed in between the decent runs that put the Panthers behind the sticks and forced the anemic passing game to the forefront.
The defense played mostly well outside of just two plays. A 40 yard pass to Mike Evans set up the first Buccaneers touchdown, and the 75 yard touchdown ended up being the game winning score were the bulk of the Bucs offensive production through the first three quarters. We saw the defense start to give out late after a lot of time on the field, which has been the story all season long.