TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled off a comeback victory against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, winning 30-24 in a thrilling matchup and securing their second straight NFC South championship. The Bucs also won their last two games in a row.
Quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Mike Evans had standout performances for Tampa Bay (8-8) at the Raymond James Stadium. Read more: Week 17 NFL scores today; winners & losers
Brady completed 34 of 45 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score, while Evans had a huge day, catching 10 passes and exploding 207 yards and three touchdowns to take his total for yards in the air to 1,124 on the 2022-23 season. Chris Godwin added nine receptions for 120 yards in the win.
The Panthers, meanwhile, were led by quarterback Sam Darnold, who went 23 of 37 on completed passes for 341 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception.
Wide receiver D.J. Moore had a strong game with six catches for 117 yards and a touchdown, and Steve Smith Jr. added four receptions for 70 yards and a score. Tight end Tom Tremble also scored a touchdown reception.
Despite the loss, the Panthers put up an intense fight, totaling 400 yards of offense.
Panthers Made Fast Start
The Panthers started strong, with Darnold connecting with tight end Tremble for a 17-yard touchdown in the first quarter to take an early 7-0 lead.
Darnold struck again in the second quarter, throwing a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Moore to extend their lead to 14-0.
But the Buccaneers responded with a touchdown of their own, as Brady found his main target, Evans, for a 63-yard score. Tampa Bay added a field goal to narrow the Panthers’ lead to 14-10 at halftime.
Both teams failed to score in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Darnold found Smith Jr. for a 19-yard touchdown to give Carolina (6-10) a 21-10 lead.
However, the Buccaneers mounted a comeback, with Brady connecting with Evans for two more touchdowns, including a 57-yarder, to take a 24-21 lead. Brady ran for a score with 1:58 remaining to take the score to 30-21
Carolina kicker Eddy Pineiro converted a 49-yard field goal to bring the score to 30-24. But it was too little too late, as the Buccaneers held on for the win.
After the game, Brady praised Evans for his performance, saying, “Mike played awesome, like he always does. I love playing out there with him, and he’s an amazing player.
“I’ve missed him too many times this year, so it was nice to connect with him and, hopefully, we can keep that going. I think we will.”