A look back at all of the match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Panthers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Charlotte in Week Five for a Monday Night Football showdown with their NFC South rivals, and a victory would give the Buccaneers a 2-0 division record and a chance to move within a game of first place.
Forget about the immediate implications in the standings, however. This game is another chance, like the many they've had over the last three years, for the Buccaneers to climb over the biggest hurdle that has been in the path of their return to playoff contention. The Panthers have won the last three NFC South titles and in the process have swept six in a row from Tampa Bay. Atlanta may lead the division one quarter of the way into 2016, but it's Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers that the Buccaneers truly need to leapfrog before they can point to their postseason destination.
Carolina leads the overall series, 20-11, with only three of those matchups coming before the creation of the NFC South. The Bucs were on the Panthers' schedule in the latter team's inaugural 1995 season, a game that was actually played at Clemson. The visitors came away with a 20-13 win despite a strong showing by the expansion team, which put up 393 yards of offense. Tampa Bay's defense swung the decision in the visitors' favor with four takeaways and backup QB Casey Weldon won the game with a one-yard touchdown plunge.
In each of the last seven years, the season series between Carolina and Tampa Bay has ended in a sweep, and unfortunately Carolina has been the broom-holder for five of those seven. The Panthers took both games in 2013, 2014 and 2015 on their way to the first consecutive division titles in NFC South history. The Buccaneers won both meetings in 2010 and 2012 while the Panthers came out on top in 2009 and 2011.
The Buccaneers will be making their 21st appearance on Monday Night Football, doing so in Charlotte for the third time. Tampa Bay has a winning record on the MNF series, going to 11-9 all-time with their last appearance, a 22-19 win over Miami in November of 2013. The Bucs' .550 winning percentage on Monday Night Football ranks 12th among all teams; Carolina is fourth on that list with a .615 mark built on eight wins in 13 tries. The Panthers have won both previous MNF matchups with the Buccaneers, in 2006 and 2008. More on those games below.
Last year's two wins for Carolina looked somewhat similar on the scoreboard at the end but were two vastly different games. In the first meeting, at Raymond James Stadium in Week Four, the Buccaneers rang up 411 yards of offense and 25 first downs to 244 and 17 for the visiting Panthers, but Carolina's defense intercepted Jameis Winston four times, with Pro Bowl CB Josh Norman returning one of them 46 yards for a touchdown. Carolina also scored on a fluky play in which Bucs S Chris Conte forced a fumble by RB Jonathan Stewart but the loose ball flew directly into the hands of TE Ed Dickson, who ran it 57 yards for a touchdown. That turned a close game into a two-touchdown lead for Carolina, which rolled from there to a 37-23 decision.
The rematch closed out the season, with the 14-1 Panthers playing host to the 6-9 Buccaneers in Charlotte. This time Carolina ran out to a 24-3 lead by halftime and eventually won 38-10. The total yards were nearly identical (386 for the Bucs to 366 for Carolina) but QB Cam Newton was coldly efficient throughout the day, completing 21 of 26 passes for two TDs and no picks and also running in a pair of touchdowns.
There were lopsided wins for both teams during those half-dozen years, but the 2014 season series featured two games decided by a total of eight points. The Panthers came to Tampa for the teams' shared season opener that year and Carolina won, 20-14, behind a 92-yard, one-touchdown debut from then-rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin. Backup QB Derek Anderson started in place of the injured Newton and threw eight passes to TE Greg Olsen for 83 yards and another score.
The Bucs and Panthers wouldn't get their 2014 rematch until Week 14, and the second game would be even closer. Tampa Bay took a 10-9 lead into halftime at Bank of America Stadium, helped by a Josh McCown eight-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans and a defense that forced Carolina to settle for four straight field goal tries (and three successes) on drives that reached the Bucs' 33-yard line or farther. The tide turned just after halftime, however, when Carolina ends Mario Addison and Charles Johnson sacked McCown and forced a fumble that the Panthers recovered at Tampa Bay's four-yard line. Anderson threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery two plays later and the home team never trailed again in a 19-17 decision.
The last time the Bucs and Panthers each finished the season with a winning record was in 2008, and that was also the last time the season series ended in a split. Tampa Bay ran away with the first meeting at home in Week Six, with Warrick Dunn gaining 115 yards on 22 carries, the last of his 30 career 100-yard rushing games. However, the Panthers returned the favor in Week 14 on Monday Night Football, pulling away to a 38-23 win behind an incredible 299 rushing yards. DeAngelo Williams led the way with 186 yards and two scores and Jonathan Stewart (still the Panthers' starter in 2015) added 115 and two more scores. The Bucs also lost their next three games after that one to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs while Carolina won four of its last five and took the NFC South title.
The reverse happened in 2005, when the Panthers won handily in Tampa earlier in the season but the Buccaneers returned to Charlotte on Dec. 11 for what would essentially be a battle for first place. That was the middle leg of an unusual three-game road swing right in the heat of the playoff race for the Buccaneers, and they were decided underdogs to the 9-3 Panthers. Thanks largely to Ronde Barber and Cadillac Williams, however, the visitors controlled the action all day and eventually walked away with a 20-10 victory. Williams ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns while Barber made an acrobatic and crucial interception near the Bucs' goal line in the fourth quarter. The victory put Tampa Bay into the top spot in the division and they eventually held on for the title at 11-5, winning a tiebreaker against the 11-5 Panthers.
The Panthers and Buccaneers also started their season together in 2012, with the Bucs winning, 16-10, on September 9. That outcome contributed to a 1-6 start for the Panthers while the Bucs used it to launch a 6-4 run, but both teams sat at 7-9 when it was all said and done. Doug Martin made his NFL debut with a 95-yard outing, Ronde Barber began his last NFL season with another critical late-game interception, and Connor Barth's three field goals made the difference in the final outcome. The Bucs needed a historically good run defense to pull out the win, holding Carolina to just 10 rushing yards on the game to tie a team record. The Bucs were particularly hard on Newton, who had put up enormous numbers against Tampa Bay's defense during his eye-opening rookie campaign in 2011. Newton threw for 303 yards but was intercepted twice, sacked three times and gained only four rushing yards on five carries. In the rematch in Charlotte, Newton led the Panthers to a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead but the Buccaneers mustered one of their most dramatic comebacks in years to win, 27-21, in overtime. WR Vincent Jackson sent the game into an extra period with his last-minute touchdown catch and the subsequent two-point conversion.
As for those 2011 numbers for Newton, however, they were quite a bit different. In two wins over the Buccaneers, the dual-threat rookie accounted for four passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns and was not intercepted once.
The Panthers won both meetings handily in 2013 on their way to the division championship, outscoring the Bucs 58-19 overall. The first game was a nationally-televised Thursday-night affair in Tampa, in which Newton threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns and also ran 11 times for 50 yards and another score. Rookie QB Mike Glennon completed 30 of 51 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown in that game, but the Bucs' offense couldn't get much going when it went to Charlotte for the rematch in early December. This time, Carolina's top-ranked defense sacked Glennon five times and picked him off once en route to an easy 27-6 decision.
Some of the most dramatic outcomes in the head-to-head Bucs-Panthers series have come from tight, low-scoring affairs. In 2002, during the Buccaneers' run to Super Bowl XXXVII, a Tampa Bay team playing without starting QB Brad Johnson found itself trailing, 9-3, in the fourth quarter. K Martin Gramatica finished off a four-for-four performance with three long field goals in the final period, the last one a 47-yard game-winner that backed up a defense that only allowed 130 total yards.
The very next season saw a Bucs-Panthers game end in a 12-9 final, but in a far less happy way for the Buccaneers. Coming off a dominant 17-0 win in Philadelphia in the 2003 season opener, the defending NFL champs stumbled in their home opener against Carolina, in part due to a single play that led to injuries to both Mike Alstott and Joe Jurevicius. Trailing 9-3, the Bucs' offense woke up just in time, with Johnson driving the team 82 yards in the last two minutes to set up a six-yard touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell as time expired. An extra point would have won it, but Carolina DT Kris Jenkins blocked the attempt, sending the game to overtime and giving the Panthers a chance to eventually win it on John Kasay's field goal.
Bucs' Game-by-Game Record vs. Panthers:
- Overall Season Series: Carolina leads, 20-11
- Bucs' Home Record: 5-10
- Bucs' Road Record: 6-10
- Current Streak: Lose 6 (2013-15)
- Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 3 (1998-2002)
- Panthers' Longest Winning Streak: 6 (2013-15)
- Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 538, Panthers 695
- Most Points in a Game, Tampa Bay: Buccaneers 31-16 (2010)
- Most Points in a Game, Carolina: Panthers 48-16 (2011)
- Most Points, both teams: 64, Panthers 48-16 (2011)
- Fewest Points in a Game, Tampa Bay: Panthers 24-0 (1996)
- Fewest Points in a Game, Carolina: Buccaneers 27-3 (2008)
- Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: 21, twice: Buccaneers 12-9 (2002), Panthers 12-9 (2003)