Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Rapid Reaction: Panthers 37, Bucs 26


The Bucs won the coin toss to start the game and elected to receive, as always. The very first play was a pass intended for wide receiver Mike Evans, but was picked off by Carolina's James Bradberry at the Bucs' 29-yard line, instead.

With the Panthers in good field position, the Bucs' defense went to work. They stopped running back Christian McCaffrey on three straight plays, forcing Carolina to settle for a field goal, going up 3-0 with 13:20 left in the first quarter.

The Carolina defense forced a three-and-out of the Bucs on their next possession. A Bradley Pinion punt put the Panthers at their own 25-yard line on their next drive. They'd also come up empty though as the Bucs forced a three-and-out in which Carolina didn't gain a yard.

The Bucs' next possession started out promising with a first-down completion to wide receiver Chris Godwin. Quarterback Jameis Winston would take two consecutive sacks, the first from former Buccaneer Gerald McCoy, backing Tampa Bay up. They wouldn't recover and be forced to punt, with the kick downed at the one-yard line by cornerback Ryan Smith.

Carolina went 99 yards on their next drive, helped by a personal foul penalty early. It would take them four tries at the goal line but McCaffrey would get the ball in the end zone after an extra effort that saw him reach over the pile after initially being stopped. It gave the Panthers a 10-0 lead with 1:05 to go in the first quarter.

A third-down sack by rookie Brian Burns would force the Bucs to punt again on their next drive. Cornerback Ryan Smith, who had downed an earlier punt at the one, forced a fumble on the return that was recovered by linebacker Kevin Minter, giving the Bucs the ball back at the Carolina 37-yard line. The next play was a pass to tight end O.J. Howard that he took for 30 yards before running back Ronald Jones punched the ball in from five yards out on a handoff. The Bucs got on the board with 12:43 left in the second quarter, cutting the Panthers' lead to 10-7.

The Tampa Bay defense held again, and Carolina came up empty on the next drive, punting the ball back into the Bucs possession. After another sack taken by quarterback Jameis Winston, the Bucs were backed up to third-and-12 when Winston's pass intended for Howard was deflected by linebacker Bruce Irvin and picked off by former Buccaneer Javien Elliott at the Bucs' 36-yard line. Carolina was able to get the ball outside to McCaffrey, who took it in from 25 yards out for the Panthers' touchdown. With 7:32 left in the half, Carolina pulled ahead 17-7.

Just as the Bucs were threatening, Carolina forced a fumble on Winston backing the Bucs up but not recovering the ball itself. That would come on the next play as Gerald McCoy forced another fumble from Winston, this time with the Panthers recovering at their own 28-yard line.

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh came up big on the next series, splitting his first sack of the season with defensive tackle Vita Vea and dropping quarterback Kyle Allen for a loss of 12. The Panthers wouldn't recover as the Bucs' defense mitigated the turnover damage, forcing Carolina to punt.

Tampa Bay took over with just 41 seconds before the half trying to make something happen. After an almost completion down the far sideline by Mike Evans that ended up falling incomplete, the Bucs eventually got a punt off after multiple false start penalties. Carolina then attempted a fair-catch kick from 60 yards which was no good, leaving the score at 17-7 at halftime.

The Panthers came up empty on their opening possession, punting the ball right back to the Bucs at the start of the third quarter. Tampa Bay would punt it right back, though. Carolina would get as far as the Bucs' 28-yard line and settle for a 46-yard field goal, increasing their lead to 20-7 with 8:21 left in the third quarter.

The first play of the Bucs' next drive, Winston was intercepted by linebacker Luke Kuechly, who returned it to the Bucs' eight-yard-line. An end-around by wide receiver Curtis Samuel and the Panthers were in the end zone again, widening the gap to 27-7 just 16 seconds later.

The Buccaneers got past midfield and brought on kicker Matt Gay for a 54-yard field goal attempt. The former soccer player connected on the kick to tack on three points for the Bucs, making the score 27-10 with 5:26 left in the third quarter.

Carolina went right down the field on their next drive, getting into the end zone this time on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Samuel. After the successful point after, the Panthers took a 34-10 lead with 14:55 left in the game.

The Bucs' next possession was fruitful as Tampa Bay drove down the field. The drive culminated in a touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate over the middle to the back of the end zone. A two-point attempt by the Bucs would be good on a tipped pass that fell into the arms of Mike Evans, cutting the Panthers' lead to 34-18 in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs' defense came up with a stop but the two teams would trade punts on the ensuing two drives, with the Bucs punting it away with 11:39 left in the game.

The Bucs' defense forced another yet another punt by the Panthers, but the return was muffed by wide receiver Bobo Wilson, with the Panthers taking over at the Tampa Bay 17-yard line. Tampa Bay's defense held the Panthers to a field goal despite the field position, with Carolina taking a 37-18 lead with just under eight minutes left in the game.

Tampa Bay drove down the field behind a few chunk plays, including a 37-yard catch and run by tight end Cameron Brate. Another sack of Winston, again by Gerald McCoy, backed the Bucs up to a third-and-12. An 11-yard catch by Scotty Miller brought up fourth-and-one, which the Bucs converted on a five-yard pass to Mike Evans. The drive culminated in a three-yard touchdown run by running back Dare Ogunbowale, the first of his career. The Bucs again went for two and converted, cutting the Panthers lead to 37-26 with 4:47 left.

The Bucs defense shut the Panthers down again on their next possession, getting the ball back with just over three minutes to play. Fourth down and 10 and Winston was intercepted for the fourth time, this time by cornerback Ross Cockrell, who returned it 33 yards to the Bucs' 24-yard line.

Tampa Bay had no timeouts left to stop the clock, so the Panthers would run the clock down to 1:16 and miss a 41-yard field goal attempt, meaning the Buccaneers would take over at their own 31-yard line down 37-26.

The score would remain there with the Bucs unable to put any more points on the board after an interception of Winston's pass intended for Evans in the end zone with 16 seconds left, Tampa Bay dropping their 'home' game in London to the Carolina Panthers 37-26.

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