Carolina won the toss to start the game and elected to defer. The Panthers wasted no time putting pressure on quarterback Jameis Winston and ended up forcing a fumble at the Tampa Bay 33-yard line.
The Buccaneers were able to hold Carolina to a field goal after a big third down tackle of quarterback Cam Newton by safety Chris Conte at the Buccaneers' 7-yard line. Kicker Graham Gano was good from 25 yards to put the Panthers on the board first, 3-0.
The Bucs made it a point of emphasis to establish the ground game on their next drive. Running back Peyton Barber ran for 39 yards as the Bucs went down the field to tied it up 3-3 on a Patrick Murray 31-yard field goal.
Pro Bowl-bound defensive tackle Gerald McCoy welcomed himself back after missing last game with a biceps injury by sacking Newton for a loss of 12 yards on the Panthers' ensuing drive, his sixth sack of the season. The stop came on third down, forcing Carolina to punt.
Inside the Panthers' 20, defensive end Julius Peppers recovered a fumble by quarterback Jameis Winston. Carolina took over at their own 19-yard line, but the Bucs' defense would once again be able to hold them to just a field goal. Kicker Graham Gano hit from 28 yards to put the Panthers up 6-3 with 8:42 remaining in the second quarter.
Carolina forced a three-and-out on the Bucs' next possession and would get the ball back with 6:40 to play in the half. The Bucs in turn forced a Panthers' punt and took over at their own 16-yard line.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin broke loose on a short pass from Winston for 70 yards, setting Tampa Bay up at the Carolina 11-yard line. Winston was sacked for a loss of 13 yards on third down, forcing the Bucs to settle for a field goal. Murray's 41-yard attempt was good to even the score again 6-6 with 2:58 left on the clock.
As Carolina got the ball back, punt returner Damiere Byrd ran Murray's kickoff back 68 yards for a Panthers' touchdown. The score put Carolina back on top 12-6 after Bucs' defensive end Will Gholston blocked the extra point.
But Tampa Bay wasn't done yet. On second-and-10, wide receiver Adam Humphries made a spectacular 36-yard grab to put the Bucs at the Carolina 5-yard line. The Bucs were able to tack on a 21-yard field goal to leave the score 12-9 as time expired.
Carolina will get the ball back to start the second half.