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Rapid Reactions: Panthers fall to Buccaneers, 32-6

Antonio Brown catch

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers played two quarterbacks Sunday, but had no answers for the one the Buccaneers used.

Even without most of his usual targets, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady was his typically effective self in a 32-6 win, which dropped the Panthers to 5-10 for the season.

Brady threw for 232 yards and a touchdown while completing 18 of his 30 passes.

Other than Antonio Brown (just back from his three-game suspension), the Bucs were without their top receivers and running backs. But without wideouts Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, Brady hit just-promoted practice squader Cyril Grayson for a 62-yard connection to set up a score that gave Tampa Bay a 19-6 lead at halftime. Reserve running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn (the Bucs were without the injured Leonard Fournette) also ran for a 55-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Those were the kind of big plays the Panthers hadn't given up this year.

The Panthers allowed 391 yards of total offense, the third-highest total of the season (trailing just the 571 by the Vikings and the 433 the Cowboys gained).

That made the quarterback rotation on the other side a bit of a moot point.

The Panthers started Cam Newton as promised, and he led them to a field goal drive to start the game. It might have been a touchdown, except running back Ameer Abdullah appeared to trip over left tackle Brady Christensen's foot, falling down instead of staying in a wide-open passing lane, as the third-down pass fell incomplete.

When Sam Darnold entered the game early in the second quarter, he threw a 63-yard bomb to Shi Smith, but that was mostly the extent of the passing fireworks.

Newton finished the game 7-of-13 for 61 yards and an interception with 42 yards rushing, while Darnold was 15-of-32 for 190 yards.

— Cornerback Stephon Gilmore left the game in the third quarter, with a groin injury, and did not return.

Gilmore fell awkwardly, and without contact, as he drifted back into coverage. He got up on his own and walked gingerly to the medical tent, and moments later to the locker room.

For all the depth the Panthers have had at the position this year, that left them with a skeleton crew of cornerbacks to finish the game — CJ Henderson, Keith Taylor Jr., Stantley Thomas-Oliver III, and Madre Harper.

The Panthers walked into last week with Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson on injured reserve, put A.J. Bouye on IR Tuesday, and Rashaan Melvin on reserve/COVID-19 on Saturday.

— The Panthers started the 11th unique combination of offensive linemen Sunday, and it wasn't the best day for that group.

The Bucs were without Jason Pierre-Paul, and Shaq Barrett left early in the second half because of a knee injury and didn't return.

But they combined to sack Panthers' quarterbacks a season-high seven times.

— With the loss, the Panthers are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

View photos of the Panthers taking on Tampa Bay in the 2021 home finale in Week 16.

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