Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette Lead Buccaneers Past Panthers for 1st Win of Season

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2020

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Evans during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rebounded from their Week 1 loss to beat the Carolina Panthers 31-17 at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians didn't hold back about Tom Brady's performance in his debut with the team, which became a major storyline entering Sunday. Perhaps Arians was only trying to motivate the future Hall of Famer, a strategy that appears to have worked based on Brady's improvement in Week 2.

Tampa Bay ran out to a 21-0 lead at halftime before losing steam in the second half.

Christian McCaffrey left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, hindering Carolina's hope of an improbable comeback.

Joey Slye connected on a 23-yard field goal at the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter to make it a seven-point game, but Leonard Fournette broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run on the next play from scrimmage.


.@_Fournette is GONE. 46-yard TD to extend the @Buccaneers lead. #GoBucs 📺: #CARvsTB on FOX 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/gdttfTQjuY https://t.co/cw4yBTOXWB

McCaffrey's injury will likely overshadow a career day for Teddy Bridgewater in terms of passing yards.


Notable Performers

Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers: 23-of-35, 217 yards, one touchdown, one interception

Leonard Fournette, RB, Buccaneers: 12 carries, 103 yards, two touchdowns; four receptions, 13 yards

Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers: seven receptions, 104 yards, one touchdown

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Panthers: 33-of-42, 367 yards, two interceptions

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers: 18 carries, 59 yards, two touchdowns; four receptions, 29 yards

Robby Anderson, WR, Panthers: nine receptions, 109 yards

DJ Moore, WR, Panthers: eight receptions, 120 yards


Brady Answers Skeptics

Nobody expects a 43-year-old Brady to flirt with the 5,000-yard mark this season. He's something of an anomaly in that no other quarterback has started a full season at his age.

The question is whether Brady can be good enough to lead the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl. The early returns weren't promising in that regard, so Sunday's game was clear progress.

With 4:38 left in the first quarter, he found Mike Evans for a 23-yard touchdown pass to put Tampa Bay up double digits.


1️⃣2️⃣ & 1️⃣3️⃣ have the @Buccaneers offense rolling. @TomBrady @MikeEvans13_ #GoBucs 📺: #CARvsTB on FOX 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/gdttfTQjuY https://t.co/vmwi8leoOB

The Buccaneers offensive line provided Brady with a helping hand by giving him a wealth of time in the pocket throughout the game.

David Newton @DNewtonespn

Give Tom Brady all day to pass and you'll pay.

Alaina Getzenberg @agetzenberg

Tom Brady isn't even going to need to have his jersey washed after this game. Panthers can't lay a hand on him.

Although this wasn't a perfect outing for Brady, it was a solid response to Week 1. 

Somewhat concerning for Tampa Bay, the running game provided little consistency aside from two big gains from Fournette. 

He and Ronald Jones II both found the end zone in the first half, doing so close to the goal line.


.@Rojo is in for the @Buccaneers TD! #GoBucs 📺: #CARvsTB on FOX 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/gdttfTQjuY https://t.co/HcCQwxaszJ


Leonard Fournette crosses the goal line for his first TD with the @Buccaneers! #GoBucs @_fournette 📺: #CARvsTB on FOX 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/gdttfTQjuY https://t.co/OH6gyzuIZ3

Together, they combined to go for 143 yards, a chunk of which came on a 25-yard run by Fournette in the fourth quarter and his late touchdown. Perhaps those two plays are a sign of things to come, which would be good news for Arians and his staff as they look to strike an offensive balance.

At the very least, it appears Fournette leapfrogged Jones in the depth chart for Week 3.


Turnover Fuels Panthers Comeback Attempt

The Panthers looked to be in serious trouble early in the third quarter. They trailed by three touchdowns, and a Robby Anderson fumble gifted Tampa Bay the ball at Carolina's 27-yard line.

On the first play of the drive, Brady threw an interception to Donte Jackson, who got the ball to Tampa Bay's 47-yard line.


Donte Jackson with the INT and big return for the @Panthers. #KeepPounding 📺: #CARvsTB on FOX 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/gdttfTQjuY https://t.co/A6TE1XRi3X

Carolina's next two possessions had the same outcome: a McCaffrey touchdown run.


.@CMC_22 keeps his legs moving for the @Panthers TD! #KeepPounding 📺: #TBvsCAR on FOX 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/gdttfTQjuY https://t.co/IhYznP91wK


.@CMC_22's second TD brings the @Panthers within 7. #KeepPounding 📺: #TBvsCAR on FOX 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/gdttfTQjuY https://t.co/DQtptpsZ9S

The second of those two scores proved costly, though, as the team announced the All-Pro running back was questionable to return. On the Panthers' subsequent drive after McCaffrey exited, Bridgewater threw an interception to Carlton Davis.

Tampa Bay turned that into a 33-yard field goal for Ryan Succop with 6:18 remaining. The damage could've been worse, but overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter was a tall order for the Panthers when they were down their best player.


What's Next?

The Panthers stay on the road in Week 3 to play the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 27. The Buccaneers head to the Mile High City to play the Denver Broncos.


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