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Bucs blank the Panthers 9-0 to win the NFC South

It may not have been pretty, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pitched a shut-out on the Carolina Panthers, winning 9-0 and clinching the NFC South and a playoff berth. While the Tampa Bay offense struggled for a second straight week, the defense made big plays at exactly the right time to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard for the second week in a row.

Baker Mayfield struggled most of the day, going 20-of-37 for a season-low 137 yards. Bryce Young was not any better, as he completed 11 of 18 passes for 94 yards, his lowest of the season. Both teams had more relative success running the ball, with the Bucs gaining 113 rush yards and the Panthers getting 131 yards on the ground.

The first quarter was defined by a stubborn detente in which neither team gained more than 30 yards on any drive after the Bucs’ opening series. The Panther’s first offensive drive ended with a Yaya Diaby sack, giving him 7.5 for the season, leading the Bucs.

At the start of the second quarter, the Panthers managed to put together a drive that nearly put them in the endzone on a 43-yard reception until Antoine Winfield Jr. forced a fumble just short of the goal line. Jamel Dean recovered the ball for a touchback.

After trading another pair of punts, the Bucs were able to get into field goal range thanks to a 20-yard reception by tight end Cade Otton. A 36-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin gave the Bucs the first points of the game. A few more punts later, the Bucs drove down into field goal range again, with McLaughlin closing the half with a 57-yard field goal.

The second half began not unlike the first with both teams trading punts. A 29-yard punt return by Ihmir Smith-Marsette gave the Panthers good field position at bottom half of the third quarter. However, the drive stalled following an Antoine Winfield Jr. sack, pushing their field goal attempt back to the Tampa Bay 34-yard line. Backup kicker Matthew Wright missed the ensuing 52-yard field goal, keeping the Panthers off the board.

A big 21-yard Chase Edmonds run on the Bucs’ next drive put them in field goal position once again. Chase McLaughlin remained perfect on the day, making the 39-yard field goal and pushing the score to 9-0.

In Carolina’s final chance to get in the game, they drove 33 yards and appeared to score on a 28-yard Raheem Blackshear run, but an illegal formation penalty nullified the touchdown. On the next play, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka sacked Bryce Young, forcing a fumble recovered by Greg Gaines. The Bucs sealed the game on the next drive with eight Rachaad White runs and a key third-down conversion from Chris Godwin.

The win gives the Bucs their third-straight division title and fourth-straight playoff berth. Chris Godwin’s team-leading 51 receiving yards put him at 1024 yards for the season, giving him his fourth career 1000-receiving yard season.

Tampa Bay will play either the Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles, depending on which of those teams wins the NFC East today. The Bucs have lost the previous matchups with both teams, and their current offensive woes do not bode well for their chances even at home next week.

Story originally appeared on Buccaneers Wire