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Panthers dominate Buccaneers in 21-3 victory

With the host of draft picks the Carolina Panthers acquired as a result of trading Christian McCaffrey, Mike Florio and Peter King wonder if the head coach job becomes more appealing to Sean Payton.

The Buccaneers’ loss to the Steelers in Week Six was the biggest upset of the 2022 season, but that reign didn’t last long.

Oddsmakers installed the Bucs as 13-point favorites over the Panthers this week and Tampa once again found themselves on the losing side of a stunning result. The Panthers ran the ball at will for much of the afternoon and their defense completely overwhelmed the Buccaneers offense in a 21-3 home win.

D’Onta Foreman ran 15 times for 118 yards and Chuba Hubbard had nine carries for 63 yards and a touchdown as the Panthers run game posted its biggest game of the season. That was not what many people predicted would happen once they traded Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers on Friday, but the point spread already established that everyone was way off on what would happen in Charlotte on Sunday.

P.J. Walker was 16-of-22 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, which should give him a shot of holding onto the job even if Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold are cleared to return from ankle injuries against the Falcons next Sunday. The Panthers moved to 2-5 on Sunday and beating the Falcons would keep them in the mix for the NFC South lead.

The fact that a team that’s fired its head coach and traded its best player is in that position underscores how little is working for the Buccaneers right now. Tom Brady was 32-of-49 for 290 yards, but the Bucs converted just 2-of-12 third downs and they failed to convert a couple of fourth down tries in the second half of the game.

Wide receiver Mike Evans was targeted 15 times and caught nine passes, although his day will be remembered for a drop in the first quarter that would have been one of the easiest touchdowns he’s ever scored. The run game only produced 46 yards and the Bucs generally look like a team that can’t do anything right offensively.

They’ll try to find a better path against the Ravens next weekend because more of the same is clearly a recipe for disaster in Tampa.