The Carolina Panthers made headlines all week as they traded two of their three primary offensive weapons, sending both Robbie Anderson and Christian McCaffrey out west in separate deals. With a looming contest against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the result was all but pre-determined in the minds of many.
On the very first drive of the game for the Bucs, Mike Evans sprung free behind the defense and Tom Brady sent the ball arcing perfectly to hit his wide receiver in stride, but Evans was unable to gather the ball, sending it flying toward the end zone as it deflected off his hands, and fell harmlessly to the ground. The Bucs would not threaten the Panthers defense again until midway through the 3rd quarter.
The Panthers offense opened similarly to last week, slow to get out of the gates and unable to net a single first down in the teams first two drives. To start the second quarter, the Panthers used a blend of running and passing, with three consecutive Chuba Hubbard rushes picking up the offenses first set of new downs on the day. A 3rd down sack would halt the drive just as the Panthers crossed midfield, but on their very next drive, a combination of D’Onta Foreman and DJ Moore receptions led the Panthers to the endzone, and a 7-0 lead that they would carry through halftime.
The third quarter would see the Panthers offense reverting back to unable to muster a first down, but the defense was thwarting the Bucs in much the same way. Tampa Bay’s best drive saw them reach the Panther 25-yard line, but on the 4th down Bucs’ running back, Leonard Fournette was turned back and the Panther took over on downs, preserving their 7-0 lead.
After punts by both teams, the Panthers would use effective a 2-play drive, with D’Onta Foreman rumbling for 60 yards and then Chuba Hubbard scooting in for the team’s second touchdown of the day, from 17 yards out, extending the unexpected lead to 14-0.
Tom Brady, needing to get things going quickly, would lead the Bucs on a field goal drive to open the 4th quarter, but instead of letting the visitors’ get back in the game, PJ walker and the offense responded with another touchdown, as tight end Tommy Tremble broke free for a 29-yard touchdown snare, extending the lead to the final score of 21-3.
A week after the offensive game plan showed very little faith in the abilities of PJ Walker, he delivered the knockout punch to a divisional foe, checking the Panthers perfect in the NFC South. For Head Coach Steve Wilks, a week that saw his primary offensive playmaker head out the door, his charges responded with an incredible effort, one that pushes Tom Brady’s record in Bank of America Stadium to 3-3 all-time.
The Panthers (2-5) next game will be on the road in Atlanta to take on the Falcons (3-4) at 1 PM on Sunday. With a Panthers win and another Tampa Bay loss on Sunday, the Panthers will find themselves atop the NFC South.
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