The Buccaneers won the toss to start the game and elected to defer, giving the Carolina Panthers the first chance on offense. They wouldn't get far as the Bucs' defense forced a three-and-out and got the ball back to the Buccaneer offense quickly.
However, the first offensive series ended even quicker for the Bucs after running back Ronald Jones fumbled on the first play of the game. It gave the Panthers the ball back on the Bucs' 31-yard line. The Bucs' defense got the Panthers to a 4th and three situation but Carolina decided to go for it. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed a short pass to wide receiver Robby Anderson and the Panthers continued the drive. It ended in a play-action touchdown pass from Bridgewater to tight end Colin Thompson, giving Carolina a 7-0 lead with 8:19 left in the first quarter.
The Bucs faced three third downs in the ensuing drive but managed to span the field. It was wide receiver Chris Godwin that made the catch of the drive, adjusting to a ball fit into a tight window by Tom Brady to convert. The drive would end in an answer as Brady connected with tight end Cameron Brate skimming along the goal line for the touchdown. It made the score 7-7 with 3:37 left in the first.
The Panthers unfortunately came up with an answer of their own behind a big pass by Bridgewater to wide receiver D.J. Moore for 38 yards. It got the Panthers into scoring range quickly and they capitalized on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Moore. It was a quick seven that put Carolina up 14-7 with 1:45 left in the quarter.
Tampa Bay spanned the field on the next drive and got into another goal-to-go situation but would have to settle for a field goal by kicker Ryan Succop. He hit the 23-yarder to cut into the Panthers' lead, making the score 14-10 at the start of the second quarter.
Carolina took up over six minutes of clock on their next drive and were helped by a questionable roughing the passer penalty as inside linebacker Kevin Minter sacked Bridgewater. But the series would ultimately end up with Carolina settling for a 46-yard field goal and padding their lead to 17-10 with 3:56 remaining in the half.
The Buccaneers offense came up with another lengthy drive, executing a perfect four-minute drill. Brady connected with tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 44-yard catch after Gronk made the catch over top of his defender and broke a tackle on his way inside the five-yard line. From there, Brady hit wide receiver Mike Evans in the back of the endzone as Evans leaped up to grab the pass and come down with both feet in bounds despite getting hit by a defender. The touchdown tied the game at 17-17 and the Panthers got one final chance with 21 seconds left.
Bridgewater aired it out for Moore again and after initially being ruled a 42-yard completion, a booth review would reveal he never had control of the ball and it hit the ground. The reversal would doom Carolina's chances for another score before halftime and the two teams went into the locker rooms tied at 17.
The first drive out of halftime looked promising for the Buccaneers as they drove down the field on a well-balanced mix of run and pass plays. Jones broke off a couple good runs while both Godwin and Evans got some work. The drive would end up stalling inside the 10-yard line and would instead result in a 24-yard field goal by Succop. It still gave the Bucs their first lead of the game, 20-17, with 10:58 to go in the third quarter.
The next Panther drive would end in a punt as the Bucs' defense stood up behind a big third-down stop where Bridgewater was almost sacked. He managed to get the ball away and cornerback Carlton Davis almost had the pick but it instead fell incomplete and the Bucs got the ball back, anyway.
A good special teams effort by Carolina had the Bucs starting at their own two-yard line. Brady handed the ball off to Jones to get some breathing room and Jones decided to just take it the whole way. He broke off a 98-yard run, marking the longest offensive touchdown in franchise history and tying the longest score period. Succop missed the extra point, making the score 26-17 halfway through the third quarter.
The next Panthers' drive would be a short one as the Bucs got pressure on Bridgewater who threw the ball right into the hands of outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul. It gave the Bucs a bonus possession that they converted into a 21-yard field goal, extending their lead to 29-17 with 3:10 to go in the third.
The Panthers wouldn't be able to get anything going on the next drive and faced with a fourth down and six, they faked the punt. It was wide receiver Justin Watson who got to the punter before he could throw the ball, giving Watson his first career sack and the Panthers turned it over on downs.
The Bucs would face a fourth-and-three situation on their next drive but Brady converted on a dart to Evans to continue the drive. It would end the same as the previous one after Brady took a sack on third down. Succop hit a 40-yard field goal for this fourth of the night and the Bucs went up 32-17 with 12:40 in the fourth quarter.
Carolina came up with another big special teams play as Panthers' Tyler Cannon returned the ball 98 yards. A play later and Bridgewater stumbled in himself for the touchdown. The Panthers went for two. The attempt failed on some pressure from outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, leaving the score 32-23 with just over 11 minutes in the game.
The Buccaneers wouldn't be denied on the next drive as they spanned the field yet again on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that took just over five minutes off the clock. It ended in a Brady keeper from the one-yard line that gave the Bucs a 39-23 lead with 6:18 left in the game.
The Panthers would try to get something going again but the Bucs' defense would stand up and Bridgewater would suffer a sack at the hands of Pierre-Paul from the ground on third down. It would knock Bridgewater out of the game as he limped off the field. Quarterback P.J. Walker took the fourth down snap that would result in a negative passing play and turn the ball over on downs with less than five minutes left in the game.
For good measure, Tampa Bay added another touchdown to their point total as Brady hit Gronkowski, who was wide open in the end zone. It pushed the Bucs' lead to 46-23 with 4:24 left in the game.
With 3:19 left in the game, the Panthers would punt the ball away, putting the ball back in the hands of the Buccaneer offense. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert came in for Brady as Jones got a few more rushing yards in the series to end up with 192 on the day. A couple knees and the game was over with a final score or 46-23.