Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Rapid Reaction: Buccaneers 32, Panthers 6

The Buccaneers clinch the NFC South for the first time since 2007 thanks to a win over the Panthers in Charlotte. 

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The Buccaneers lost the toss to begin the game and would end up with the ball in their hands to start. Quarterback Tom Brady and company would get a first down before then surrendering on the next set of downs. With punter Bradley Pinion out, Sterling Hofrichter took over duties and punted the Bucs' first possession of the game.

Carolina took over with quarterback Cam Newton at the helm. He was sacked on first down by defensive tackle Will Gholston for his third sack of the year. Despite the six-yard loss, the Panthers would get across midfield and continue their drive. Newton broke off a 33-yard run to get the Panthers to the Bucs' 11-yard line. Despite the nine-play, 64-yard drive, the Panthers would only end up with three points. Carolina took a 3-0 lead with 7:17 left in the first quarter.

The next Bucs series would see them get into the end zone with some different guys than you may expect. With injuries to the receiver corps, there seemed to be more emphasis on the ground game. Ronald Jones broke off a 13-yard run, thanks to a lead block by Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet before running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn took a handoff 55 yards down the field, thanks to some nifty shifting behind blocks by wide receiver Cyril Grayson, for Tampa Bay's first score of the game. It made the score 7-3 with 4:13 remaining in the first quarter.

The next Panther possession was cut short at midfield when outside linebacker Shaq Barrett tipped Newton's pass. He almost came down with it but instead, it was safety Jordan Whitehead who nabbed it mid-air to give the Bucs a bonus offensive possession.

The Bucs took over at their own 49 but would only end up with a field goal after an offensive pass interference put them behind the chains. It made the score 10-3 with 10:58 remaining in the second quarter.

Thanks to a 63-yard bomb by quarterback Sam Darnold to Shi Smith, the Panthers got in Bucs' territory on their next drive in a hurry. It had initially looked as though Darnold was going to be sacked but instead, he got the ball away. It was the only play the Bucs' defense would give up as they forced Carolina to settle for another field goal, making the score 10-6 with about seven and a half minutes left in the first half.

The next possession by the Bucs would be helped along by a couple passes to wide receiver Antonio Brown but the Tampa Bay offense would stall at the Carolina 25. Kicker Ryan Succop came on and was good from 43 yards to push the Bucs' lead to 13-6 with 2:40 remaining in the half.

The Bucs' defense would get Carolina off the field before long and after preserving the clock the rest of their timeouts, the Tampa Bay offense would get the ball back with 1:41 to work with.

It wouldn't take long to get down the field thanks to a 62-yard pass from Brady to wide receiver Cyril Grayson Jr. A couple plays later and it was tight end Cam Brate on a crosser in the end zone for the score. There was a Carolina penalty on the extra point which placed the ball at the one-yard line. The Bucs elected to go for two but it wouldn't quite work out, leaving the score 19-6 with 1:19 remaining in the first half.

The Panthers would get it back but wouldn't be able to do anything with it, punting it back in time for the Bucs to run one more play. It was a handoff from Brady that would take the two teams into halftime with the Bucs leading 19-6.

Carolina would punt away their first possession of the half thanks to a third down sack of Newton by outside linebacker Anthony Nelson. The ensuing punt by the Panthers would be returned to the Bucs' 46, putting Tampa Bay in good field position to begin their first offensive drive of the half.

Thanks to a 23-yard completion from Brady to tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Bucs found themselves at the nine-yard line with a fresh set of downs. The next play, Carolina would get hit with a holding call and it would become first and 10 from the four-yard line. They'd end up having to settle for a field goal, making it 22-6 about halfway through the third quarter.

The next series would end quickly for the Panthers behind a third-down sack of Newton by nose tackle Vita Vea. The Panthers would punt again and the Bucs' offense would take back over at their own 43.

Helped by an 11-yard scramble by 44-year-old Tom Brady, the Bucs would move swiftly down the field and after a handoff to running back Ronald Jones from the seven-yard line, the Bucs would have their third touchdown of the game. It pushed Tampa Bay's lead to 29-6 with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter.

Another possession for the Panthers, another punt. Defensive lineman Will Gholston and defensive tackle Steve McLendon that combined for a second-down sack of Darnold. The next play, defensive tackles Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh hurried Darnold into an incompletion, which forced the punt.

The Bucs took over at their own 24 with 11:52 to play in the game. They kept to the ground for the first series trying to run down the clock and Jones would lose three on second down forcing the Bucs into a third and 11 situation.  They wouldn't convert and the Bucs would trade a punt right back after a little over a minute.

Panthers would be forced to go for it on fourth and 10 with just over 10 minutes to play in the game. The play would end in a sack by inside linebacker Kevin Minter and the Panthers would turn the ball over on downs.

The Bucs would stall at the Carolina 30 and be forced into a 48-yard field goal attempt. Succop was good, making it a perfect four-for-four as Succop tied his long for the season. It made the score 32-6 with 7:59 left in the game.

Carolina began their next drive sticking with Darnold at quarterback from their own 31. Darnold would be sacked by Gholston yet again. It gave Gholston 2.5 on the day - a career high. Backed up to fourth and 18 at their own 23, the Panthers would punt and the Bucs took back over at their own 22 with 3:51 left in the game.

It would be quarterback Blaine Gabbert that would take the field for Tampa Bay, along with (for the first time ever as a Buccaneer) Le'Veon Bell. The Bucs would end up punting though, with 2:16 remaining in the game.

With all the defensive backups in for the Buccaneers, Carolina would be able to go down the field and get to the Bucs' 11 before a flag on fourth and 11 gave the Panthers a fresh set of downs at the six-yard line with six seconds left. The play went incomplete but one second remained for one more play. It also went incomplete and the score remained 32-6.

The Bucs clinched the NFC South with the victory for the first time since 2007 and improved to 11-4 on the season.

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