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And just like that, the Buccaneers (13-4) set a new franchise record for the most wins in a regular season after beating the Panthers (5-12), 41-17. 

It wasn't easy, but the Bucs overcame a slow start in the first half, but the Bucs scored 17 straight points en route to their second sweep of a divisional opponent in 2021. Tom Brady led the way with 326 passing yards and three touchdowns as he, Mike Evans, and Rob Gronkowski all set NFL records throughout the afternoon. 

But what matters most is the Bucs' franchise-record 13th win and the sweep of a division rival. 

Let's dive into the final recap of the regular season.


Tampa Bay won the toss, but deferred, so Carolina began the game with the ball.

It looked as if Carolina was about to go three-and-out on the opening drive, but Sam Darnold connected with D.J. Moore for a 20-yard gain for the first down. The Bucs were able to force Carolina into a 3rd and 4 a couple of plays later, but the defense was called for a neutral zone infraction, which gave the Panthers a new set of downs in Tampa Bay territory. 

The Bucs avoided disaster when an open Moore dropped a pass a slant route on the following play. It would've been a big gain if Moore held on, but he made up for it, somewhat, on the next play with an 11-yard catch-and-run down to the Tampa Bay 30. 

Carolina converted another third down -this time it was a 3rd and 6- a few plays later to move into the red zone. Ameer Abdullah's 10-yard run on 2nd and 6 gave the Panthers a 1st and goal from the Bucs' 6. Chuba Hubbard then scored the game's first touchdown off a two-yard reception and the Panthers led, 7-0, with 7:22 left in the first quarter after Lirim Hajrullahu's PAT went through the uprights.

The Bucs offense responded in a pretty minute way. Myles Hartsfield sacked Brady on first down, which led to a three-and-out on the Bucs' first possession of the game. 

Anthony Nelson sacked Darnold on the first play of Carolina's following drive, but Moore's 19-yard reception on 3rd and 20 led to a 4th and 1 at the Carolina 30. The Panthers decided to go for it and converted the fourth down into a first down thanks to Moore's 13-yard run. 

The Panthers continued to drive the ball, but eventually faced a 4th and 6 from the Tampa Bay 39. The Bucs defense held up as Carlton Davis III deflected the intended deep pass for Moore. 

Tampa Bay took over at its own 39 looking to tie the game or at least get a field goal. 

The Bucs faced a 4th and 2 early in the drive, but Evans bailed the offense out with a 14-yard catch-and-run to move the ball down to the Carolina 28. Brady and Co. couldn't do much afterward, however, as the drive stalled on a 3rd and 3 at the Carolina 21. Ryan Succop's 39-yard field goal attempt was good and the Bucs now trailed, 7-3, with 11:09 to go in the second quarter.

Carolina gained 32-yards on its first three plays, highlighted by a Hubbard 19-yard run, which set up shop at the Tampa Bay 38. The Bucs defense forced the Panthers offense into a 3rd and 12, but a simple screen to Abdullah gained 15-yards.

Now, Carolina had a 1st and 10 at the Tampa Bay 22. Two Abdullah runs gained 12-yards and then a nine-yard Abdullah reception set up a 3rd and 2 at the Tampa Bay 3. 

The Bucs defense stopped Tremble just short of the goal line, but of course, the Panthers decided to go for it on 4th and inches. The Panthers tried to get the first down off a Darnold sneak, but the Bucs defense held strong and forced the turnover on downs. 

But even though the defense held the strong, the offense was still in bad shape as it started its third drive of the game at its own 1. 

Naturally, the Bucs went three-and-out based off the bad field position. Bradley Pinoin punted the ball away and the Panthers took over at the Tampa Bay 48. 

An offensive pass interference on the first play of the drive negated a nine-yard gain and instead created a 1st and 20 at the Carolina 42. Robby Anderson's 13-yard reception turned the situation into a manageable 2nd and 7 and then Hubbard's two-yard run gave the Panthers a 3rd and 5 at the Tampa Bay 43. The Panthers couldn't convert, however, and had to punt the ball away.

Lachlan Edwards' 35-yard punt landed at the Tampa Bay 8, which is where the Bucs' next drive began. It looked the Bucs were about to go three-and-out in the shadow of their own goal line, again, but Evans came through with a 37-yard catch-and-run to move the ball out to the Tampa Bay 45. Brady then hit Gronkowski on the next two plays for 27-yards and then Breshad Perriman came through with an incredible 24-yard reception on the right sideline to give the offense a 1st and goal at the Carolina 4. 

Brady's completion to Perriman was also a record-setting one, as it gave Brady the most passing yards in a single season by any Bucs quarterback (5,122). Jameis Winston previously held the record with 5,109 passing yards in 2019.

A three-yard carry by Le'Veon Bell set up a 2nd and goal at the 2. Brady connected with Bell off the play fake on the next play for the one-yard touchdown pass, which was the Bucs' first of the game. Succop's PAT went through the uprights and the Bucs now led, 10-7, with :09 left in the first half. 

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Brady's touchdown wasn't significant only because it gave the Bucs the lead. It also broke his own franchise record for the most touchdown passes in a single season (41). The touchdown pass capped off an eight-play, 92-yard drive that lasted just 1:33. 

Darnold kneeled the ball with just a few seconds left, sending the game into overtime. 

Tampa Bay received the ball to start the second half after deferring the game-winning coin toss. Gronk got things started off with a bang by hauling in back-to-back 42- and 19-yards to set the offense up with a 1st and 10 at the Carolina 15. A six-yard Vaughn run and an eight-yard Johnson reception set up a 1st and goal at the Carolina 2 before Vaughn punched it in on the next play to make it a 16-7 game. That is, until Succop's PAT extended the Bucs' lead to 17-7 with 11:57 to go in the third quarter.

Abdullah's 33-yard return set the Panthers offense with a 1st and 10 at their own 32 for the first drive of the second half, but the Bucs defense held tough and forced a three-and-out. 

Evans started the drive off with a five-yard reception, which gave Evans 1,002 yards on the season, thus extending his record of 1,000-yard seasons to start a career to eight. But the Bucs didn't do anything else outside of that and had to punt the ball away three plays later.

The Panthers started their following drive at their own 31. Hubbard's six-yard reception on 3rd and 4 kept the offense from going three-and-out and his 15-yard run on the next play carried the unit into Tampa Bay territory. Moore immediately moved the ball closer to the end zone with a 17-yard reception, but Antoine Winfield Jr. sacked Darnold on the subsequent 1st and 10 to eventually led to a 3rd and 6 at the Tampa Bay 21.

Darnold tried to scramble for the first down, but could only gain five yards. Matt Rhule decided to kick the field goal and Hajrullahu's 35-yard field goal was good. Tampa Bay now led, 17-10, with 4:44 left in the third quarter.

Jaleon Darden's 34-yard kick return gave the Bucs offense a 1st and 10 at their own 38 and then 10- and four-yard completions to Evans and Perriman moved the ball into Carolina territory.

Two more Brady completions gained 16-yards, but the Bucs still had to overcome a 3rd and 1 to keep the drive alive. Vaughn's three-yard run did just that and simultaneously gave Tampa Bay a 1st and 10 at the Carolina 29. 

What more perfect target than Gronkowski to convert the following 3rd and 3. Gronk's 14-yard reception not only moved the chains, but it put the former All-Pro tight end over 100 receiving yards for the game, which set the record for the most 100-yard games by a tight end in NFL history (32). 

And even better, Tampa Bay now had a 1st and goal at the Carolina 8. 

Brady connected with Evans two plays later for his second touchdown pass of the game and Succop's PAT made it a 24-10 game with 14:56 left in the game. 

Abdullah kept things interesting with a 39-yard kickoff return that allowed Carolina to start at its own 44. Moore's eight-yard reception on the first play of the drive moved the ball into Tampa Bay territory 

Carolina moved into the red zone and overcame a 4th and 4 when Darnold connected with Anderson for an impressive 19-yard touchdown pass. Hajrullahu's PAT went through the uprights and it was now a 24-17 game with 10:34 to go. 

Who else but Gronk would start the Bucs' following drive off with a big play? The big guy reeled in a 28-yard reception, which immediately placed the Bucs in Carolina territory. It took four more plays before the Bucs crossed into the red zone and then just one play to score the fourth touchdown of the game as Brady found a streaking Evans down the left sideline for the 20-yard touchdown reception. Succop's PAT was good and Tampa Bay's lead increased to 31-17, with 7:34 left in the game. 

Evans' touchdown marked his 14th of the year, which broke his own record of 13 receiving touchdowns in a single season.

Disaster struck on Carolina's next drive as Darnold tried to run for it, but instead was stripped of the ball by Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Winfield Jr. was right there to scoop it up, which gave the red-hot Bucs offense a new set of downs at the Carolina 32 after his nine-yard return. 

Brady connected with Gronk for seven-yards on the first play of the drive for incentive purposes before getting benched for Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert tried to hit Darden deep on 3rd and 5, but couldn't get it done and the Bucs had to settle for Succop's 40-yard field goal. The kick was good and the Bucs led, 34-17, with 5:04 to go. 

The Bucs defense kept Carolina from converting a 4th and 6 and then Scotty Miller took a reverse-toss 33-yards to the house to officially end any hope of a Carolina comeback as the Bucs led, 41-17, with 4:07 left in the game after Succop's PAT. 

The Panthers' meltdown continued as Andrew Adams picked off Darnold on the first play of the next drive. Tampa Bay took over at the Carolina 40 after Adams' 17-yard return.

The Bucs couldn't get any points off the turnover, however, as Succop slipped attempting a 46-yard field goal. 

The Panthers couldn't get anything done and the Bucs went on to win, 41-17. 

The Buccaneers will face the Eagles in the Wild Card round next weekend. Kickoff is to be determined in terms of both date and time. 

Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other NFL news and analysis. Follow along on social media at @SIBuccaneers on Twitter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.