Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans scored on a 75-yard reception and joined Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history to string together 10 consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus yards receiving while helping the Buccaneers beat the struggling Carolina Panthers 21-18 on Sunday.
Evans finished with seven receptions for 162 yards, increasing his season totals to 61 catches for 1,012 yards and 10 touchdowns. Rice set the league record of 11 straight seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving from 1986 through 1996.
The Bucs (5-7) won for only the second time in the past eight games, climbing into a tie for second place in the weak NFL South. Carolina (1-11) scored late to pull within a field goal, but No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Young threw an interception with just over two minutes remaining, ending any chance of coming from behind to win the Panthers’ debut under interim coach Chris Tabor.
Rachaad White #1 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers carries the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Rachaad White scored an early touchdown and receiver Chris Godwin scored on a 19-yard run early in the fourth quarter, increasing Tampa Bay’s lead to 21-10. Chuba Hubbard rushed 104 yards and two TDs for Carolina, and Young’s 2-point conversion run trimmed Tampa Bay’s lead to 21-18 with 5:02 left.
Despite losing six of seven games following a 3-1 start, the Bucs began the day trailing Atlanta and New Orleans by one game in the NFC South. The Falcons (6-6) beat the New York Jets to remain on top of the division, while the Saints (5-7) lost to the Detroit Lions to fall into a tie for second place with the Bucs.
The Panthers fired Frank Reich last Monday, 11 games into the coach’s first season leading the Panthers. Tabor was promoted to interim coach for the rest of the season and said he encouraged players to “play loose, not reckless” and have fun moving forward.
It was the second time in a little more than a year that Carolina faced Tampa Bay shortly after the in-season hiring of a coach. Matt Ruhle was dismissed in October 2022, two weeks before the Panthers knocked off Tom Brady and the Bucs 21-3 in Charlotte.
Bryce Young #9 of the Carolina Panthers looks to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the fourth quarter of the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Evans had 10 catches for 207 yards that previous time the division rivals met in Tampa. He had a 40-yard reception to set up White’s 1-yard TD run in the first quarter and turned Baker Mayfield’s short pass into a 75-yard TD that put the Bucs ahead for good — one play after the first of Hubbard’s two TD runs put the Panthers up 10-7 late in the third quarter.
Panthers: Played without S Vonn Bell (shoulder) and TE Hayden Hurst (concussion), who were inactive.
Buccaneers: Three defensive starters — LBs Lavonte David (groin) and Devin White (foot) and CB Jamel Dean (ankle/foot) were inactive. LB SirVocea Dennis, who started in David’s absence the previous week, also sat after being listed on the injury report as doubtful because of illness. … LB K.J. Britt (back) left in the first quarter and did not return.
Chris Godwin #14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers carries the ball for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter of the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Panthers: Travel to New Orleans to face the Saints.
Buccaneers: Continue stretch in which they’re playing four of five on the road, visiting Atlanta.