By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) clinched the NFC South beating the Carolina Panthers (5-9) 32-6 in week 16 play. This is the Bucs first division title since 2007 and their first 2021win without their pro bowl receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and running back Leonard Fournette. Coach Bruce Arians said, “We don’t have one of those division banners up there for a long time. It feels great. This is what we focused on to win our division. Our guys did it today. Can’t be more prouder of the group that played today.” This win guaranteed the Bucs at least one home game during the first-round of the playoffs.
The Panthers would take the early lead with kicker Lirim Hajrullahu 24-yard field goal on 4th and goal. The Bucs would answer with Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 55-yard touchdown run. It was the longest run of the season for Tampa Bay and a career-long run for Vaughn who finished the day with 70 rushing yards. Ryan Succop’s 36-yard field goal attempt gave the Bucs a 10-3 lead. The Panthers would go on to kick a field goal of their own getting back in the game with a score of 10-6 prior to the half. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady would find tight end Cameron Brate for a four-yard touchdown reception ending the half with a 19-6 lead after a missed 2-point conversion. Antonio Brown and Cyril Grayson led the passing game with Brown having 10 catches for 101 yards and Grayson with three catches for 81 yards.
In the second half, Ronald Jones II would add 20 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown. QB Tom Brady completed 18-of-30, 232 yards. Bucs kicker Succop would connect 4-for-4 on extra point attempts.
Not to be left out, the Bucs defense got in on the action recording seven sacks against the Panthers with OLB Shaquil Barrett recording his 10th sack of the season. Barrett would make history joining former Bucs Simeon Rice, Lee Roy Selmon, and Warren Sapp as players who had double-digit sack seasons
A tale of two quarterbacks, the Panthers would play both Cam Newton (7-of-13, 61 yards and one interception) and Sam Darnold (15-of-32, 190 yards). Both would finish the game without putting points on the scoreboard. Panthers’ kicker Hajrullahu ended his day with two-for-two field goal attempts.
Next up : Buccaneers at New York Jets