The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used a big second half to pull away from the Carolina Panthers, turning a competitive game into a 46-23 win. After entering the locker room at halftime tied 17-17, the Panthers had just 20 yards of offense in the second half. Tom Brady threw touchdowns to Cameron Brate, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans, but the highlight of the afternoon was a 98-yard scurry for a touchdown by Ronald Jones.
A story to monitor:late in the game and went to the locker room. The Panthers don't have their bye until Week 13, as do the Buccaneers.
Why the Buccaneers won
These two teams were evenly matched during the first half. There was not a large discrepancy in penalties or turnovers. Tampa Bay's defense buckled down in the second half, holding the Carolina offense to just 20 total yards. The front seven ratcheted up the pressure with eight quarterback hits and three sacks. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was particularly impressive, recording a sack and an interception.
With the team plane arriving in Charlotte late Saturday night well behind schedule, it's understandable why the Bucs defense might have slept in until the second half. When awakened, they were hungry and eager to slam the door on any potential rally by the Panthers offense.
Why the Panthers lost
The Buccaneers made defensive adjustments at halftime and Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady had no answer. As noted above, the Panthers offense had 20 yards of total offense, which meant that the defense was on the field a little more than 12 minutes longer than their counterpart.
Carolina's defense is not equipped to overcome offensive struggles. They surrendered a field goal here and a touchdown there as Tampa Bay slowly pulled away, outscoring Carolina 29-6 in the second half.
Play of the game
On second-and-13 from the Carolina 48, Tom Brady dropped back to pass and threw a nice touch pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski. It was a relatively routine play until Gronkowski tossed rookie safety Jeremy Chinn off as if he were a child.
Let's be honest, it's not the first time that the veteran has embarrassed a defender, but it is the first time it's happened in awhile. Gronkowski rumbled for 44 yards down to the Carolina 4.
A few plays later, Tampa Bay scored a touchdown on a pass to wide receiver Mike Evans, which was the game-tying score at the time.
Stats of the game
With less than eight minutes remaining in the third quarter and with Tampa Bay clinging to a 20-17 lead, running back Ronald Jones broke through the line of scrimmage for a 98-yard touchdown -- the longest in franchise history. The Buccaneers increased their lead to 27-17 and never looked back. According to the broadcast, Jones reached a top speed of 21.19 miles per hour.
Wide receiver Mike Evans recorded his 500th career reception in his 100th career game. Wide receiver D.J. Moore is now sixth in Carolina franchise history with 179 receptions.
Tampa Bay has two upcoming home games against the Rams and Chiefs before finally hitting their bye week. They improved to 7-3 and remain in second place within the NFC South.
Carolina has two games coming against the NFC North's Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. The following week is an important bye for Matt Rhule, who is leading a young roster and could stand to evaluate all that has gone well and not so well before playing the Panthers' final four games.