CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — A slow start to the second half combined with an imposing future Hall of Famer quarterback resulted in a debilitating loss for the Panthers on Sunday, falling 46-23 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium.
A scary moment occurred in the 4th quarter with under 6 minutes to play as Teddy Bridgewater was sacked by Jason Pierre-Paul and left the field gingerly and did not return.
PJ Walker came in at quarterback and finished out the game for the Panthers. In 2016, Bridgewater suffered a horrific dislocated leg injury, tearing his ACL and suffering other structural damage, and his career seemed to be in limbo at the time following multiple surgeries. The Panthers would only say Sunday’s injury was a knee injury but did not specify which knee. The knee he injured in 2016 was his left knee. Bridgewater received a 3-year, $63 million contract this offseason.
Tom Brady and Antonio Brown put the punctuation point on the win marching Tampa Bay down the field 75 yards with 6 minutes to go to take a commanding 39-23 lead. Rob Gronkowski and Brady then connected for a 7-yard touchdown expanding the Bucs lead to 46-23.
With under 12 minutes to play in the game, Panthers kick returner Trenton Cannon nearly ran one back for a touchdown going 98 yards before being tackled on the 4-yard line. The Panthers scored on a Bridgewater rush to pull within 32-23. Carolina failed on a 2-point conversion.
Kicker Ryan Succop connected on his fourth field goal of the game to start the fourth quarter and give Tampa Bay a 32-17 advantage.
The Panthers (3-7) were unable to put points on the board in the 3rd quarter and then suffered a big blow when running back Mike Davis appeared to injure his finger midway through the 3rd. He went into the locker room but then returned in the 4th quarter. Davis was already filling in for Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey, who was out Sunday after suffering a shoulder injury in last week’s loss at Kansas City. McCaffrey received a 4-year, $64 million contract this offseason.
The injuries continued to mount for Carolina as cornerback Donte Jackson left the game in the first half with a toe injury.
The Bucs (7-3) had to settle for a field goal in the red zone on the opening drive of the second half, but were able to take the lead, 20-17, and never relinquish it.
A big play from Brady and Gronkowski on Tampa Bay’s final drive of the first half led to a touchdown tying the game at 17-17 at halftime.
The Panthers started the game with a recovered fumble in the first quarter in their own territory and were able to convert it into points with a Teddy Bridgewater pass to rookie tight end Colin Thompson to take 7-0 lead. The Panthers gamble to go for it on a fourth down on the previous series of plays paid off. The 26-year-old Thompson came to Carolina by way of the XFL and this was his first touch in the NFL. He signed as a free agent this offseason.
Brady then led Tampa Bay down the field and connected with Mike Evans to tie the game at 7-7. The Panthers responded with a 24-yard pass from Bridgewater to DJ Moore for the score and a 14-7 lead with 1:53 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers host the Detroit Lions next week at Bank of America Stadium (1 pm, Fox 46).