The Bucs scored 29 points in the second half to pull away from the Panthers 46-23 Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
Tampa Bay improved to 7-3, 1/2-game behind New Orleans (7-2) in the NFC South. Carolina dropped to 3-7.
Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns, Ryan Succop kicked four field goals and Ronald Jones set a franchise record with a 98-yard touchdown run.
The Bucs trailed 17-10 in the second quarter before storming back to score 36 of the next 42 points.
Brady was 28-of-39 for 341 yards with no interceptions. Antonio Brown had a team-high seven receptions, as Brady completed passes to eight different receivers. Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate had touchdown catches.
Jones finished with 192 yards on 23 carries. His 98-yard touchdown run put Tampa Bay ahead 26-17 in the third quarter.
Jason Pierre-Paul had an interception and a sack to lead the Bucs' defense. Shaquil Barrett added a sack and two tackles-for-loss.
Justin Watson made a key stop on a fake-punt attempt late in the third quarter, setting up a Succop field goal that put Tampa Bay ahead 32-17.
Bridgewater knocked out of game
A seven-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski extended the Bucs' lead to 46-23 with just over four minutes remaining in the game.
Tampa Bay took over on downs at the Carolina 21 after P.J. Walker threw short to Alex Armah on fourth-and-9.
Panthers starter Teddy Bridgewater left the game after being sacked by Jason Pierre-Paul on the previous play.
Antonio Brown gets involved
Two Antonio Brown receptions helped set up a one-yard Tom Brady run that put the Bucs ahead 39-23 with just over six minutes remaining.
An eight-yard pass from Brady to Brown on third-and-1 gave Tampa Bay a first down at the Bucs 42. The two teamed up again three plays later for a 25-yard gain to the Panthers 26.
Ronald Jones ran for 12 yards and Brady passed to Mike Evans for 13 to put the ball at the 1.
Brady sneaked in for the touchdown, putting Tampa Bay ahead by 16 with 6:18 left in the game.
Long kickoff return sets up Bridgewater TD run
A 98-yard kickoff return by Trenton Cannon set up a three-yard Teddy Bridgewater touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Cannon took Bradley Pinion’s kick two yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the Bucs 4.
After a one-yard run from Mike Davis, Bridgewater scrambled three yards up the middle for the score.
Under pressure, Bridgewater threw incomplete for Cannon on the two-point conversion attempt, leaving Tampa Bay ahead 32-23 with 11:23 to play.
Fake punt blows up in Panthers' faces
A fake punt blew up in the Panthers' face, as Justin Watson stopped Carolina punter Joseph Charlton for a five-yard loss late in the third quarter.
The Bucs, leading 29-17, gained possession at the Panthers 35 with a chance to add to their advantage.
A 14-yard pass from Tom Brady to Mike Evans on a crossing pattern moved the ball to the Carolina 14.
But Leonard Fournette was dropped for a one-yard loss, Brady threw incomplete and Brady was sacked by Efe Oba, causing the Bucs to send Ryan Succop back onto the field for his fourth field-goal attempt.
His 40-yarder gave Tampa Bay a 32-17 lead with 12:40 to play in the game.
Pierre-Paul pick nets three more points
One play after Ronald Jones' 98-yard touchdown run gave the Bucs a nine-point lead, Jason Pierre-Paul got the ball right back for Tampa Bay with an interception at the Carolina 38.
Tom Brady twice threw deep but overshot an open Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski.
It didn’t matter, as Cameron Brate caught a checkdown pass from Brady on third-and-19 and picked up all 19 yards. A 22-yard pass to Evans moved the ball to the Panthers 4.
That was as far as they got, however, as two Jones runs nettled only a yard, and the Bucs had to settle for Ryan Succop’s 21-yard field goal and a 29-17 lead with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter.
Ronald Jones' record run
Backing up the Bucs deep in their own end would up being the worst thing for the Panthers.
Tampa Bay got the ball at its 2-yard line after a 49-yard Joseph Charlton punt was downed by J.J. Jansen.
But Ronald Jones burst through a hole in the line on a straight dive play and raced 98 yards for a touchdown, the longest scoring run in Bucs franchise history.
The Bucs led 26-17 after Ryan Succop’s extra-point try was blocked by Bravvion Roy, who pushed Joe Haeg back.
Bucs go ahead for first time
The Bucs took their first lead of the game at 20-17 on Ryan Succop’s 24-yard field goal just over four minutes into the third quarter.
Tampa Bay took the second-half kickoff and drove 69 yards from its 25 to the Carolina 6 before the drive stalled.
Facing third-and-1 at the the Bucs’ 46, a quick hitter turned into a big gainer when Chris Godwin slipped a tackle after catching a short pass from Brady and ran to the Carolina 23 before being pushed out of bounds for a 31-yard pickup.
After a defensive holding penalty against Rasul Douglas, Ronald Jones ran 11 yards around left end to the Panthers 7.
But a couple of passes for Mike Evans were incomplete, and Tom Brady was tackled from behind by Brian Burns after scrambling for a yard on third-and-goal, resulting in the field-goal attempt.
Bucs, Panthers tied at halftime
One play after Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski bulled his way to the Panthers 4-yard line to complete a 44-yard pass play, Tom Brady hit Mike Evans in the back of the end zone for a touchdown to tie the game at 17 with 27 seconds left in the first half.
The touchdown capped a nine, play 75-yard drive.
Brady kept the drive alive by threading a pass to Chris Godwin in the middle of the field for a first down to the Bucs 39 on third-and 11.
Two plays later, Brady found Antonio Brown for 16 yards and a first down to the Panthers 45.
Carolina appeared to be moving into field-goal position as the half neared a close, but a 42-yard completion from Teddy Bridgewater to DJ Moore to the Bucs 33 (as well as a five-yard delay of game penalty against Bucs safety Mike Edwards) was overturned following a replay review.
Two more passes failed to produce a first down, and the Panthers were forced to punt.
Panthers regain seven-point lead
Joey Slye restored the Panthers' seven-point lead at 17-10 with a 46-yard field goal with just under four minutes remaining in the first half.
Carolina drove from its 25 to the Tampa Bay 28 before Jamel Dean broke up Teddy Bridgewater’s pass for Curtis Samuel on third-and-10.
The drive was extended when linebacker Kevin Minter was flagged for roughing the passer while sacking Bridgewater, giving the Panthers a first down at the Bucs 28.
Bucs get three points back
The Bucs narrowed their deficit to four points on Ryan Succop’s 23-yard field goal five minutes into the second quarter.
Tampa Bay converted two third downs while driving from its 25-yard line to the Carolina 5 on 14 plays.
Ronald Jones ran three yards over right tackle for a first down on third-and-1 from the Bucs 44. Leonard Fournette picked up 14 yards around left end on third-and-1 from the Panthers 44.
The drive stalled when Tom Brady threw incomplete for Mike Evans in the end zone on third-and-goal from the Panthers 5.
Davis down, Panthers back up
Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis, whose status for the game was up in the air due to a sore knee, was injured late in the first quarer.
Davis remained down on the field after making a tackle following a 38-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater to DJ Moore late in the first quarter.
One play later, Moore took a screen pass from Bridgewater 24 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Panthers lead.
Davis returned to the game later in the half.
Bucs tie game on Brate TD catch
The Bucs tied the game at 7 on Tom Brady’s five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate with 3:37 remaining in the first quarter.
Trailing 7-0, Tampa Bay drove 75 yards on seven plays.
A 23-yard pass from Brady to Chris Godwin to the Bucs 48 got the drive underway. Godwin later made a great adjustment on a third-and-seven pass along the right sideline to give Tampa Bay a first down at the Carolina 7.
Earlier in the drive, Brady and Mike Evans hooked up for a 18-yard pass play on third-and-2.
The touchdown pass to Brate was the third third-down conversion of the drive.
Turnover leads to early Panthers score
The Panthers took advantage of an early Bucs turnover to jump out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter of Sunday’s game at Bank of America Stadium.
After forcing a three-and-out on the Panthers' first possession, the Bucs defense found itself right back on the field as Ronald Jones fumbled on Tampa Bay’s second play from scrimmage.
Shaq Thompson punched the ball out of Jones' hands after the running back caught a short pass over the middle from Tom Brady. Tre Boston recovered at the Bucs 33.
Carolina converted a fourth-and-3 from the Tampa Bay 26 on a nine-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Robby Anderson.
Mike Davis ran for six yards and Curtis Samuel for four to give the Panthers a first down at the 7.
Bridgewater found tight end Colin Thompson in the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown. It was Thompson’s first touch as a Panther.
Bucs looking to change the narrative
With a chance to make their case as the top team in the NFC in front of a national television audience last weekend, the Bucs imploded against the Saints on Sunday Night Football, losing by 35 points.
Understandably, national pundits have since cooled on Tampa Bay (6-3), which is no longer the top team in its own division after being swept by New Orleans.
But today, the Bucs get a chance to begin to reshape the narrative in a 1 p.m., regionally televised game against the Panthers. Less glamorous for sure. But every bit as important.
A win over 3-6 Carolina won’t immediately put Tampa Bay back in the Super Bowl conversation, but it will keep it in the hunt, just back of New Orleans (6-2) in the NFC South, with six games to play.
Fortunately, quarterback Tom Brady and his teammates have shown an ability to bounce back.
The Bucs are 2-0 this season when coming off a loss, including a 38-10 rout of the Packers 10 days after a dismal loss in Chicago.
Brady suffered only eight losses of 20 or more points in 20 seasons with the Patriots. In the games immediately after those defeats, he went 7-1.
One of the biggest problems in the loss to the Saints was the Bucs' inability to protect Brady, who was hit nine times and sacked three.
With Ali Marpet in concussion protocol, Joe Haeg started at left guard and the Saints took advantage, utilizing stunts and twists that consistently beat him and left tackle Donovan Smith.
With Marpet still out, the Bucs aren’t taking that same chance again. Veteran A.Q. Shipley will start at center, and center Ryan Jensen will move to Marpet’s spot at left guard.
In other injury news, Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis (knee) was able to practice Saturday and may be able to play against the Panthers. Carolina do-everything back Christian McCaffrey, meanwhile, is out with a shoulder injury.
One player who has been on the field but notably absent from the Tampa Bay offense is wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans was open a number of times in the loss to New Orleans, according to head coach Bruce Arians, but wasn’t targeted by Brady. So he might be someone to keep an eye on today.
Follow along, starting at 1 p.m., as the Bucs try to regain their footing and recover the ground they lost to the Saints last week.
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A little light reading
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