Tom Brady throws for 432 yards, Bucs clinch NFC South with 30-24 win over Panthers
It’s been an ugly season for Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers will be back in the postseason.
Quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Mike Evans went off on Sunday, leading the team to a 30-21 victory to clinch the NFC South and guarantee a home playoff game.
Brady threw for 432 yards and three touchdowns and all three went to Evans. The receiver out of Texas A&M caught three long touchdowns of 63, 57, and 30 yards. The 57-yard score and 30-yard TD came on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter and put the Bucs ahead 24-21.
Evans finished with 10 catches for 207 yards with three scores.
Then Brady took in a QB sneak for a touchdown to put the game out of reach with 1:58 left in the contest.
That was set up by a Sam Darnold strip-sack, which Anthony Nelson forced and nose tackle Vita Vea recovered.
The Panthers kicked a field goal to narrow the Bucs’ lead to 30-24 with 59 seconds left. And with three timeouts, Carolina forced a three-and-out for Tampa Bay to get the ball back.
But the snap was low on Jake Camarda’s punt and he somehow had to get the ball away after fielding it and running to his left. An illegal man downfield penalty backed the Bucs up 5 yards, but it also took precious seconds on the clock for Carolina’s last opportunity.
The Panthers tried a Stanford Band play as time expired, but it was to no avail. The Bucs were officially back in the postseason with a 30-24 victory.
Darnold had three turnovers in the contest with two lost fumbles and an interception. He also had another fumble that he recovered. He finished 23-of-37 passing for 341 yards with three TDs.
D.J. Moore had six catches for 117 yards with a touchdown.
The Panthers had trouble running the ball, gaining just 73 yards on 23 carries — 3.2 yards per attempt.
The win puts the Buccaneers at 8-8 and division champions. They will close the regular season at the 6-10 Falcons in Week 18.
The 6-10 Panthers will be at the Saints next week. But they have been eliminated from postseason contention.