The Carolina Panthers have earned the NFC South title in Bleacher Report's Madden GOAT Simulation Tournament, taking down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-13 in a thrilling matchup Monday night.
Quarterback Cam Newton was at his best, completing 13 of 17 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown to go with 18 yards on five carries. The combination of Newton and tailback Christian McCaffrey (15 carries, 97 yards, one touchdown) allowed the Panthers to eat up the clock and control the game from halftime on.
Warrick Dunn got things started for Tampa, barreling into the end zone on an eight-yard run to help put the Bucs up 7-0 early before Carolina responded with the first of two scores in the second quarter by Jonathan Stewart. That gave the Panthers a 14-10 lead at halftime with the Bucs getting the ball back to start the third frame.
After marching down the field on their first possession of the second half, Tampa Bay could only muster a field goal, keeping them behind on the scoreboard as McCaffrey continued to run time off the clock. The tailback finally broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter to help give his team a 21-13 lead, which proved more than enough to secure the win.
Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams completed 13 of 21 passes in the loss for 147 yards with no touchdowns.
The win sets up an Elite Eight showdown between Carolina and the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay escaped a gauntlet of an NFC North thanks to wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. Whoever wins the NFC divisional will take on the winner of the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants for the right to represent the conference in the title game.