Game Ball:** Cornerback Brent Grimes had the Buccaneers' only touchdown of the game's first 57 minutes, but that was just the beginning of his outstanding work in Sunday's season finale. Grimes also broke up four passes, including a diving third-down stop to end one drive and two leaping deflections in the end zone in the closing minutes. His pick-six was the result of a perfect break on an attempted out pass to wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. Grimes caught Cam Newton's pass on a full run, barely managed to keep his balance and stay inbounds and then ran 31 yards for a touchdown two plays into the second half. That gave the Buccaneers a 10-7 lead, and they would never trail again, though the Panthers did eventually tie the game at 10-10. Grimes was awarded a game ball in the postgame locker room by Head Coach Dirk Koetter, capping a very productive first season as a Buccaneer. With four interceptions, Grimes became the only player in the NFL with at least four picks in each of the last four seasons. In addition, he came into the weekend tied for the league lead with 20 passes defensed and has a good shot to pace all players in that category after getting four more.
Play of the Game:** Tampa Bay had difficulty putting the ball in the end zone on Sunday despite driving into Carolina territory seven times and nearing midfield on two other possessions. Grimes was the only Buc to find pay dirt until Tampa Bay's last real drive of the game (excluding a single kneel-down at the end), but Jameis Winston and Mike Evans came up big when the Bucs needed it. With just over three minutes to play, Winston dropped straight back on a second-and-goal from the 10 but quickly found the pocket collapsing on him from all sides. He managed to escape up and to the left, and just before he reached the line of scrimmage, still on a dead run, he unleashed a bullet to Evans in the front left corner of the end zone. Evans had improved after his original route and dashed into an open space just long enough to make himself a target. The score ended up being the game-winner when the Panthers answered with their own touchdown drive but failed on a two-point conversion try.
Turning Point:** The Buccaneers went into halftime with just a single field goal and knew Carolina's offense was going to get the ball first to start the second half. The Panthers had looked masterful on their first drive of the opening half, driving 75 yards on six consecutive successful plays for a touchdown. If Carolina had opened the second half in similar fashion, the Bucs would have found themselves in a deep hole, with an offense that was struggling to score points. Instead, with one quick break, Grimes gave the Buccaneers a lead and they would not trail again.
It Was Over When: Bradley McDougald broke up a quick pass over the middle intended for tight end Greg Olsen a Carolina two-point conversion try with 17 seconds left in regulation. Carolina, with little at stake, understandably chose to decide the game at the end of regulation, and Newton went to his most reliable target. McDougald's play finished off a performance for Tampa Bay's defense that included 10 pass break-ups and numerous other contested throws.