Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Series History: Bucs-Panthers

Tampa Bay will seek its first series split with Carolina since 2008 on Sunday, while the Panthers will go for the sweep and continue their efforts to be the division's first repeat champs

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • A win by Tampa Bay on Sunday would create the first Bucs-Panthers season split since 2008
  • The Buccaneers are out of the playoff race but could still play spoiler as Carolina goes for back-to-back titles
  • Tampa Bay's most meaningful December win in Charlotte came in 2005, as Cadillac Williams sparked a 20-10 victory

    If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope to finish the 2014 season on a winning streak, they'll have to start by breaking a pattern.

Since 2009, the Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers have taken turns sweeping the season series. Carolina won both meetings in '09, '11 and '13, while the Buccaneers were the even-year champs in '10 and '12. The Panthers already snapped that pattern, taking a 20-14 decision at Raymond James Stadium on opening day of the 2014 campaign, and now the Bucs will try to forge the first season split since 2008.

The best season parallel is 2005, when the Panthers won handily in Tampa earlier in the season but the Buccaneers returned to Charlotte on Dec. 11 for what would essentially be a battle for first place. That was the middle leg of an unusual three-game road swing right in the heat of the playoff race for the Buccaneers, and they were decided underdogs to the 9-3 Panthers. Thanks largely to Ronde Barber and Cadillac Williams, however, the visitors controlled the action all day and eventually walked away with a 20-10 victory. Williams ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns while Barber made an acrobatic and crucial interception near the Bucs' goal line in the fourth quarter. The victory put Tampa Bay into the top spot in the division and they eventually held on for the title at 11-5, winning a tiebreaker against the 11-5 Panthers.

First place is not on the line for the Buccaneers this year, but the game still has meaning in the NFC South race. By thumping the Saints in New Orleans in Week 14, the Panthers moved to within a half game of the lead, behind the 5-7 duo of the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. Not only could the Buccaneers play spoiler, but they could also grab their first intradivision win of the season. Since the NFC South was formed in 2002 during the last wave of expansion and realignment, the Buccaneers have gone winless within the division just once, in 2006. A win by the Bucs on Sunday would also help keep the South's very unusual streak alive: No team has ever repeated as division champs. Carolina could be the first after taking the crown in 2013.

Carolina's win at Raymond James Stadium in Week One marked the second time in a three-year span that the Panthers had opened their season in Tampa. The same matchup in 2012 resulted in a 16-10 Bucs victory on September 9. That outcome contributed to a 1-6 start for the Panthers while the Bucs used it to launch a 6-4 start, but both teams ended up at 7-9 when it was all said and done. Doug Martin made his NFL debut with a 95-yard outing, Ronde Barber began his last NFL season with another critical late-game interception, and Connor Barth's three field goals made the difference in the final outcome. The winning margin was the same in this year's Week One rematch, but this time it was the Panthers on top behind another very fine rookie debut. With backup QB Derek Anderson at the helm, subbing for an injured Cam Newton, rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin caught six passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Anderson also found TE Greg Olsen regularly, hitting him eight times for 83 yards and a score.

Seferian-Jenkins12_10_14_1_a.jpg

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the Buccaneers fought hard but came up short against the Panthers on opening day

The Panthers won both meetings handily a year ago on their way to the division championship, outscoring the Bucs 58-19 overall. The first game was a nationally-televised Thursday-night affair in Tampa, in which Newton threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns and also ran 11 times for 50 yards and another score. Rookie QB Mike Glennon completed 30 of 51 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown in that game, but the Bucs' offense couldn't get much going when it went to Charlotte for the rematch in early December. This time, Carolina's top-ranked defense sacked Glennon five times and picked him off once en route to an easy 27-6 decision.

The Bucs won both games in 2012, though neither one came easily. The Bucs needed a historically good run defense to pull out a 16-10 win at home in the opener, holding Carolina to just 10 rushing yards on the game to tie a team record. The Bucs were particularly hard on Newton, who had put up enormous numbers against Tampa Bay's defense during his eye-opening rookie campaign in 2011. Newton threw for 303 yards but was intercepted twice, sacked three times and allowed only four rushing yards on five carries. In the rematch in Charlotte, Newton led the Panthers to a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead but the Buccaneers mustered one of their most dramatic comebacks in years to win, 27-21, in overtime. WR Vincent Jackson sent the game into an extra period with his last-minute touchdown catch and the subsequent two-point conversion.

As for those 2011 numbers for Newton, however, they were quite a bit different.  In two wins over the Buccaneers, the dual-threat rookie accounted for four passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns and was not intercepted once.

Carolina leads the overall series, 17-11, with only three of those matchups coming before the creation of the NFC South. The Bucs were on the Panthers' schedule in their inaugural 1995 season, a game that was actually played at Clemson, and they came away with a 20-13 win despite a strong showing by the expansion team, which put up 393 yards of offense. Tampa Bay's defense swung the decision in the visitors' favor with four takeaways and backup QB Casey Weldon won the game with a one-yard touchdown plunge.

Some of the most dramatic outcomes in the head-to-head Bucs-Panthers series have come from tight, low-scoring affairs. In 2002, during the Buccaneers' run to Super Bowl XXXVII, a Tampa Bay team playing without starting QB Brad Johnson found itself trailing, 9-3, in the fourth quarter. K Martin Gramatica finished off a four-for-four performance with three long field goals in the final period, the last one a 47-yard game-winner that backed up a defense that only allowed 130 total yards.

The very next season saw a Bucs-Panthers game end in a 12-9 final, but in a far less happy way for the Buccaneers. Coming off a dominant 17-0 win in Philadelphia in the 2003 season opener, the defending NFL champs stumbled in their home opener against Carolina, in part due to a single play that led to injuries to both Mike Alstott and Joe Jurevicius. Trailing 9-3, the Bucs' offense woke up just in time, with Brad Johnson driving the team 82 yards in the last two minutes to set up a six-yard touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell as time expired. An extra point would have won it, but Carolina DT Kris Jenkins blocked the attempt, sending the game to overtime and giving the Panthers a chance to eventually win it on John Kasay's field goal.

Bucs' Game-by-Game Record vs. Panthers:

Year

Result

Site

1995

W, 20-13

Clemson

1996

L, 24-0

Charlotte

1998

W, 16-13

Tampa

2002

W, 12-9

Charlotte

2002

W, 23-10

Tampa

2003

L, 12-9

Tampa

2003

L, 27-24

Charlotte

2004

L, 21-14

Charlotte

2004

L, 37-20

Tampa

2005

L, 34-14

Tampa

2005

W, 20-10

Charlotte

2006

L, 26-24

Tampa

2006

L, 24-10

Charlotte

2007

W, 20-7

Charlotte

2007

L, 31-23

Tampa

2008

W, 27-3

Tampa

2008

L, 38-23

Charlotte

2009

L, 28-21

Tampa

2009

L, 16-6

Charlotte

2010

W, 20-7

Charlotte

2010

W, 31-16

Tampa

2011

L, 38-19

Tampa

2011

L, 48-16

Charlotte

2012

W, 16-10

Tampa

2012

W, 27-21

Charlotte

2013

L, 31-13

Tampa

2013

L, 27-6

Charlotte

2014

L, 20-14

Tampa
Series Notes:

  • Overall Season Series: Carolina leads, 17-11
  • Bucs' Home Record: 5-9
  • Bucs' Road Record: 6-8
  • Current Streak: Lose 3 (2013-14)
  • Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 3 (1998-2002)
  • Panthers' Longest Winning Streak: 5 (2003-05)
  • Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 488, Panthers 601
  • Most Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Buccaneers 31-16 (2010)
  • Most Points in a Game, Panthers: Panthers 48-16 (2011)
  • Most Points, both teams: 64, Panthers 48-16 (2011)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Panthers 24-0 (1996)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, Panthers: Buccaneers 27-3 (2008)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: 21, Panthers 12-9 (2003)
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