Game Ball: Rookie WR Solomon Patton was promoted to the active roster on Saturday in order to return kicks, and he made a very good first impression. With no turnovers and very few big moments on defense, and only a fourth-quarter surge by the offense, there weren't too many highlights on plays from scrimmage. Patton, however, consistently helped the Bucs in the field position battle by averaging 14.0 yards on four punt returns and 26.0 yards on two kickoff returns.
Play of the Game: The Panthers seemed to have the game in hand with a 10-0 lead as the fourth quarter began, but the first play of that final period proved to be pivotal. Despite tight coverage from CB Mike Jenkins, Carolina QB Derek Anderson threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin on the first play of the fourth quarter. Given the Bucs' inspired comeback after that, Benjamin's catch was critical to the final outcome.
Turning Point: The Bucs and Panthers were unsurprisingly locked in a defensive field-position struggle through the first quarter, before Tampa Bay fullback ripped off a shocking 54-yard run from the Bucs' four to the opposing 42. That gave the home team a chance to take an early lead, but two plays later QB Josh McCown tried to turn a near-sack into a positive play. The result was worse than what the sack would have caused, as McCown's lob in the direction of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins was tipped by LB Luke Kuechly and intercepted by CB Antoine Cason. The Panthers used the ensuing possession to drive for the game's first score.
It Was Over When: Kuechly punched the ball out of RB Bobby Rainey's arm. After Rainey's six-yard touchdown catch closed Carolina's lead to 17-14, the Bucs' defense got a stop and Tampa Bay took over at its own 32 with 1:36 to play. Two snaps later, McCown threw a short pass to Rainey, who caught it but then lost the ball two steps later, allowing Carolina to tack on a field goal and run out most of the clock.