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Carolina Panthers

Know Your Foe: Tampa Bay Buccaneers


CHARLOTTE – The Panthers have no room for error in the next two weeks if they want a shot at the playoffs, and this week's trip to Tampa Bay is the first must-win.

Carolina (6-9) travels to face Tom Brady's Buccaneers (7-8) in a game where a Panthers win gives them first place in the NFC South before Week 18, and losing would hand the division to Tampa Bay.

Carolina leads the all-time series 25-19 against the Bucs, including a 12-9 record on the road. The Panthers won the first meeting in Week 7, 21-3, in a dominant defensive showing with PJ Walker at quarterback.

Here's what to know about the Buccaneers:


Tampa Bay could've lost its third game in a row on Christmas Day, but Brady found a way to sync up the struggling Bucs offense against a four-win Cardinals team.

Brady completed six straight passes in Tampa Bay's overtime drive, finding Leonard Fournette, Mike Evans, Russell Gage, and Julio Jones in a sequence. The series ended in a game-winning 40-yard field goal from Hickory, N.C.'s Ryan Succop to clinch a 19-16 win over Arizona, a team playing with its third-string quarterback amid a lousy season.

The Buccaneers trailed by 10 with 10:47 to go in the game before Tampa Bay's offense finally started to click.

Brady capped off a less-than-stellar overall performance with late-game heroics, finishing his Sunday night effort with 281 yards on 32-of-48 passing with one touchdown against two interceptions.

Fournette totaled 162 all-purpose yards (72 rushing, 90 receiving), including a 44-yard catch that helped set the tone for a comeback in Arizona.

"Keep it close in the fourth quarter, and you know you've got a shot," Brady said to the team’s website. "In the fourth quarter, we executed pretty well, broke some tackles, ran hard, a lot of guys made plays in the pass game, contested catches, guys hit as soon as they caught it and came up with it. The defense really stepped up. Down 10 in the fourth quarter on the road, it was good to find a way to get a win."

Leonard Fournette


The Bucs' early struggles against the Cardinals were a symptom of their significant problems on offense this year, which have started with inconsistency up front.

Tampa Bay's offensive line has battled injuries throughout the season. The Bucs punctuated that by having to go to their third-string left tackle after backup Josh Wells suffered a season-ending knee injury early in Arizona.

Tampa Bay needed late-game heroics against the Cardinals and in a Monday Night Football matchup in Week 13 against the Saints.

The Bucs returned from a 16-3 deficit in the fourth quarter to win 17-16 over New Orleans, finding a similar rhythm late after starting slow. Without those fourth-quarter surges led by Brady, the Bucs could be in worse shape.

They're averaging 17.7 points per game, 28th in the NFL, and score a touchdown in 59.5 percent of red-zone trips, ranked 21st in the league.


Tampa Bay hasn't won a game where it has allowed more than 151 yards rushing, and their 20th-ranked run defense allows 4.5 yards per attempt.

The Bucs know the Panthers will want to run the ball; it's how Carolina defeated Seattle and Detroit to help set up a meaningful showdown this week.

When the Buccaneers have faced teams with prolific ground games, they haven't had much success containing it. The Ravens put up 231 yards in Week 8, the 49ers rushed for 209, and the Browns put up 189 against Tampa Bay.

The Panthers rushed for 173 yards in their Week 7 win over the Buccaneers behind a dominant day for D'Onta Foreman, who totaled 118 yards on 15 attempts. Chuba Hubbard went down with an ankle injury the last time Carolina played Tampa Bay, and he still ran for 63 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

The Bucs are better with defending the pass, ranked fourth in the league allowing teams 195.1 pass yards per game, but they haven't created many turnovers with just nine picks on the season.

Linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David are the highlights along Tampa Bay's defense, with each eclipsing over 100 tackles on the year. Safety Mike Edwards also flies around the ball, putting up 76 tackles with two interceptions this year, tied with cornerback Jamel Dean for the team-high.

The Bucs are also dealing with a rash of injuries, including Dean (toe) and defensive tackle Vita Vea (calf), who were both out for the Cardinals game, missing their second week in a row.

Carolina is 25-19 all-time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, posting a 13-10 record at home and 12-9 on the road.

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