Game Ball:** RB Doug Martin continued to run as sharply as he has throughout the first quarter of the season, and this time it paid off with a 106-yard game and his first touchdown of the season. Martin also caught five passes for 37 yards. The Bucs still had a shot after Charles Sims' touchdown catch made it 31-17 in the third quarter, and Martin accounted for 61 yards on four carries on the 80-yard march that led to that score. The most important of those four runs was a fourth-and-one conversion from Carolina's 35, on which he not only broke through the left side of the line on a toss-sweep but also got out into the open for a gain of 24. Sims scored two plays later. WR Vincent Jackson also had a prolific day with 10 catches for 147 yards and a score, but 55 of those yards and the TD came on the Bucs' last drive, with the game out of reach.
Play of the Game: S Chris Conte forced a fumble by RB Jonathan Stewart early in the second half, and if the ball had bounced differently, we might be talking about that play as a game-changer in the Bucs' favor. Instead, the loose ball deflected directly into the hands of Panthers tight end Ed Dickson, who caught it on the run and sprinted 57 yards for a score without being touched. It was only 17-10 in Carolina's favor when the ball left Stewart's hands; a turnover for the Bucs' defense might have swung the momentum back in the favor of the home team and maybe even set up a game-tying touchdown. Instead, the Bucs never got closer than 14 points down again.
Turning Point: Speaking of momentum, the Buccaneers grabbed a handful of it right before and after halftime. Martin's five-yard touchdown run with four minutes left in the half made it 17-10 and a fine two-minute drill put Tampa Bay in position for a field goal just before the intermission. K Kyle Brindza pushed his 29-yard try right, but the first few moments after the break put the Buccaneers back in a good position. Panthers QB Cam Newton dropped a wet football on the first snap of the second half and CB Mike Jenkins recovered the fumble at the Panthers' 25. The Bucs failed to put the ball in the end zone, however, and a second Brindza miss put Carolina back in the driver's seat.
It Was Over When: Carolina WR Brenton Bersin took a pass on a crossing route over the middle late in the third quarter and turned up the sideline for a gain of 30 yards. Carolina would end up with a field goal on that drive, pushing its lead to 34-17. That was significant because it turned the matchup into a three-score game and the Bucs didn't have enough time to turn it around from there.
Photos from Buccaneers vs. Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.