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Bucs impressed by Bryce Young's poise, potential

Bryce Young

TAMPA, Fla. — By the numbers, Bryce Young didn't light up the scoreboard at Raymond James on Sunday.

But if you asked the players and coaches who tried to defend Carolina's rookie quarterback through 69 snaps, they came away thoroughly impressed. Although the Panthers fell to 1-11 with a 21-18 setback against the Buccaneers, Young made some big-time throws and never lost his composure.

"I think he's going to be a star," said Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles, who will face Carolina again in the Jan. 7 season finale at Bank of America Stadium. "He's very elusive in the pocket and very accurate if you give him time.''

The Panthers tried to confuse the Bucs by varying Young's launch points. Young operated both under center and out of the shotgun, rolling out on occasion to buy himself more time.

Jonathan Mingo was Young's primary target, catching six of the 10 passes sent his way, including a 31-yard grab that set up a late third-quarter touchdown plunge by Chuba Hubbard that gave Carolina a brief 10-7 advantage.

"I like that Bryce Young kid a lot,'' said veteran Bucs safety Ryan Neal, who was forced to play some inside linebacker Sunday due to a rash of injuries. "A lot of people put him under a lot of fire, but you've got to remember he's a rookie. I know people like to compare him to C.J. Stroud, but that's not fair. It's a different team, different scheme, different system.''

Bowles said he was worried during the week about Young's mobility. He had 25 carries in 10 games entering Sunday, but he never scrambled past the line of scrimmage except for a successful 2-point conversion. Hubbard did the heavy lifting on the ground, rushing for 104 yards on his 25 attempts.

Until Hubbard's first 1-yard scoring run capped a 65-yard drive, the Panthers had done little offensively against a Bucs defense that had struggled in recent weeks. Carolina's second drive of the game stalled at the Tampa Bay 5-yard line when Young threw incomplete on second down and Hubbard was dropped by Neal for a 3-yard loss.

The Panthers settled for Eddy Piñeiro's 23-yard field goal, and Carolina converted only 1-of-7 on third down in the opening half. The Panthers dominated the time of possession in the third quarter (10:25) and made the Bucs sweat with 5:02 remaining when Hubbard finished off a 75-yard drive with another 1-yard run.

Young kept the 11-play drive alive with a 30-yard strike to DJ Chark Jr. on fourth-and-6. Trailing 21-16, the Panthers went for the 2-point conversion. Young was sacked, but a facemask penalty gave Carolina another chance, and Young ran around the right end and reached the end zone.

"He has a bright future,'' said Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who had a late interception on a fourth-down pass intended for Adam Thielen. "He's still young, still a rookie, but I think he's going to be good. He kept his poise and kept playing. They were in it the whole time.''

Young was sacked four times while throwing for 178 yards. Despite seven penalties and a 3-for-15 showing on third down, the Panthers topped the 15-point plateau for the first time in six games.

"I love Bryce; he's a hell of a competitor,'' said Panthers right tackle Taylor Moton. "I think the sky's the limit for him. I'm very excited to see what the future holds for him. He has great poise and makes sure we have the right energy in the huddle. He makes sure we're all on the same page.''

Bowles, whose defense was shredded by Stroud four weeks ago in Houston, came out victorious against the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft. That doesn't mean Young failed to make Bowles uncomfortable.

"I saw him as a star when I was looking at film all week,'' Bowles said. "He had 40-something sacks, but he escaped 60-something, and he's very accurate given time. It's just first-year quarterbacks; some do well with the people around them, some you have to get some help, and some just have to have growing pains.

"I'm glad I got him early. I don't want to see him too many times.''

View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 13.

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