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Rapid Reaction: Buccaneers 21, Panthers 18

The Buccaneers defeated the Panthers 21-18 and improve to 5-7

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat their divisional foe, the Carolina Panthers, in Week 13. The Bucs improve to 5-7 with a 21-18 victory over the Panthers, spurred by a vintage Mike Evans' performance, a reinvigorated ground attack and an opportunistic defense.

After an opening drive punt for the Buccaneers' offense, the Tampa Bay defense forced a three-and-out. The Bucs then dialed up an eight-play, 57-yard scoring drive. Mike Evans became the catalyst, racing down the right sideline for a 40-yard gain, bringing the Bucs to the Carolina 5-yard line. Evans then drew a defensive pass interference penalty and on the subsequent play, Rachaad White ran it in for a one-yard touchdown rush.

On the following offensive drive for Carolina, a gifted unnecessary roughness penalty by the Bucs put Carolina at the Tampa Bay 21-yard line, negating a would-be third-and-long scenario. Safety Ryan Neal came up with a critical tackle for loss on third down (while in as the second linebacker for injured K.J. Britt), dropping Chuba Hubbard in the backfield, forcing an Eddy Piñeiro 23-yard field goal to begin the second quarter. The Bucs' offense then stalled on a three-and-out, putting the defense right back on the field. The Bucs' defense answered with a stop of their own, as both Antoine Winfield Jr. and Yaya Diaby diagnosed, reacted and filled the hole, taking down Miles Sanders on third down.

Both offenses then traded punts, with a turnover abruptly ending Tampa Bay's next promising drive. Mayfield was intercepted by Xavier Woods at the Carolina 45-yard line on a pass intended for Evans. Calijah Kancey then collapsed the pocket, forcing Bryce Young to intentionally throw the ball away, setting up second-and-25. Raheem Blackshear was stopped short on third down and the Panthers were forced to punt it away at the two-minute mark. The Bucs held a 142-130 advantage in yards during the first half but stingy defensive units for both teams became the storyline. Tampa Bay converted four of nine third-down attempts – including two during four drives - and compiled eight total first downs in the first half. The Panthers completed just one of seven third-down attempts and accumulated just seven first downs.

Tampa Bay's defense continued the stellar trend out of the half, by forcing a quick three-and-out. The Bucs took down Hubbard on two carries for no gain, setting up third-and-11 and a punt. Tampa Bay's offense once again underwent a lull and on the ensuing possession for the defense, Antoine Winfield Jr. nabbed a sack on third down. With tight coverage on the back end by the Bucs, Bryce Young held onto the ball too long and Winfield capitalized, dropping the Panthers' rookie for a loss of nine, which set up fourth down and a Panthers' punt. In similar fashion, the Bucs' following drive ended with a Marquis Haynes Sr. sack of Baker Mayfield (-8). The Panthers responded with their first touchdown of the afternoon. A 31-yard connection between Young and Jonathan Mingo set up a one-yard touchdown rush for Hubbard.

The Bucs followed suit with a highlight-reel moment. Tampa Bay traveled 75 yards in one play, culminating in a Mike Evans spectacular touchdown to give the Bucs a 14-10 lead – marking the longest reception of Evans' career. Evans lined up in the slot and turned on the jets, getting behind the Panthers' secondary. Mayfield hit him in stride and No. 13 took it to the house. Both clubs then traded three-and-outs. To conclude the third frame, J.J. Russell sacked Young for a loss of nine on third down, forcing the Panthers' eighth punt.

Early in the fourth, the Bucs reached the end zone. Tampa Bay capped off a 67-yard, seven-play drive with a 19-yard jet sweep by Chris Godwin around the right edge for a touchdown. With just over 11 minutes in regulation, the Bucs took a 21-10 lead. With the score, Godwin moved past Jimmie Giles for the fourth-most touchdowns from scrimmage (35) in franchise history. The Panthers then trimmed the deficit, as a 30-yard gain by DJ Chark helped set up the one-yard Hubbard touchdown. The Panthers' first two-point attempt failed but a facemask penalty on the Bucs gave Carolina another crack at the end zone. Young ran it in, making it a 21-18 game. On the ensuing drive from fourth-and-one, Calijah Kancey brought the pressure, quickly getting in Young's face with a penetrating forward-charge. He caused an errant throw and Antoine Winfield Jr. picked off Young at the Tampa Bay 43-yard line. That turnover, along with Rachaad White's 30-yard run on the closing possession iced the victory.

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