Panthers look to finish strong after turbulent season

TAMPA, Fla. — Most 6-earn NFL groups are not playing for a division lead in January, and just after a promising start off in Sunday’s recreation, the Panthers gave up 20 details in the fourth quarter, letting the Bucs to pull off a comeback earn that clinched the NFC South title for Tampa Bay and eliminated Carolina from playoff rivalry.

“We failed to do what we desired to do,” interim head coach Steve Wilks reported immediately after the 30-24 reduction. “They manufactured a lot more performs than what we did today, so we have to give those guys all the credit. We did not engage in according to our DNA, which is physicality and hard work, which I thought for the most component you saw that. We failed to participate in clever, not at all.”

Carolina (6-10) jumped out to a 14- lead early, and even after the Bucs rallied back again, the Panthers got a 3rd touchdown move from quarterback Sam Darnold for a 21-10 guide early in the fourth quarter. From there, the Bucs took over, with Tom Brady acquiring Mike Evans for two of their a few touchdowns and adding a speeding touchdown to prolong their direct.

Mike Evans on Bucs battling through adversity

Mike Evans on Bucs fighting through adversity

Bucs WR Mike Evans spoke with FOX Sports’ Erin Andrews right after Tampa Bay clinched the NFC South with a 30-24 victory about the Panthers. “We perform better with our backs from the wall,” Evans said.

Darnold, who experienced absent 4 starts off this period devoid of a turnover, had two fumbles and an interception that led to a combined 10 points for Tampa Bay. He also threw 3 landing passes in a recreation for the 1st time given that 2019, but he was extra anxious about the possibility that obtained away from the Panthers with a double-digit guide in the fourth quarter Sunday.

“Yeah, I mean it sucks,” Darnold mentioned. “Clearly, we understood what we ended up combating for. … A great deal of emotion goes into it since we know the kind of preparing that goes into it throughout the week. Not just all over the week, but during the full time, to complete our target. We had been proper there at the end, and we just could not get it accomplished.”

Even though Darnold had good results throwing the ball downfield, the Bucs were able to include Carolina’s managing game, which experienced gone for a franchise-document 320 yards in final week’s get around Detroit. The Panthers totaled 74 yards on 22 carries, with D’Onta Foreman gaining 35 yards on 13 carries (2.7-garden common) and the staff finding just four 1st downs on the ground.

“It is incredibly disheartening. We operate tricky to get to this position. Nobody was going to hand us everything or give us something,” Foreman stated immediately after the recreation.  “A lot of credit history to all those fellas. They went out there and made much more plays than we did now. 

“I am very pleased of each person in this locker area. I know we fought really hard. Nobody gave up, all people understood what the undertaking was. However, that is portion of the NFL. You prepare effectively, you go out there and give it your all, and often it won’t function out for you. We just have to come across a way to get far better and continue to increase.”

Primarily based on the latest standings, Carolina has the No. 9 select in April’s NFL Draft, and even with contention for the division title now a point of the previous, Wilks stressed the significance of finishing the year robust. The Panthers near out their schedule Sunday in New Orleans, battling the Saints (7-9) for 2nd position in the division standings.

“The one issue I said to those fellas is the past element we are heading to do this 7 days, and that is end,” Wilks mentioned. “That’s what guys do. Which is what good football groups do no matter of the document, irrespective of the situation. We’re going to appear in tomorrow and put this activity to bed and have a excellent 7 days of exercise with that major to game-day execution. We are heading to finish next 7 days and that is our way of thinking.”

If Carolina beats the Saints, they would both of those be 7-10 and the Panthers would have a sweep as the tiebreaker for second spot in the division. A earn may well fall them a little bit in the draft, and it also gives them a harder timetable in 2023, with three game titles decided by a team’s divisional finish. If the Panthers finish next in the NFC South, they would host the NFC East runner-up subsequent year (either the Cowboys or Eagles) and would vacation to encounter Seattle and the AFC East runner-up, at the moment the Patriots. If they end third, they’d host the Giants and vacation to facial area either the Rams or Cardinals, as well as the AFC East third group, perhaps the Jets.

Carolina’s lone Professional Bowl choice, defensive close Brian Burns, was held without the need of a sack Sunday, but the Panthers sacked Brady 3 situations, and despite the reduction, Burns mentioned he was happy with how close Carolina arrived to an inconceivable division title.

“We went through a ton this period,” Burns reported. “At the stop of the working day, we didn’t get what we required, what I think that we had been capable of, and it was ideal there in entrance of us. Quite, extremely, really sensible. It was there, we were all in excess of them. They produced more performs than we did. I idea my hat to them.”

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Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th year masking the Bucs and the NFL entire-time, possessing spent time at the Tampa Bay Occasions and The Athletic. You can observe him on Twitter at @gregauman.

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