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Bucs’ young stars on defense shine in shutout victory over Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Joe Tryon-Shoyinka lost his starting job at midseason but not his confidence. When the Bucs needed another big play on defense in Sunday’s 9-0 win over Carolina, the former first-round pick from Washington closed out the series and the game.

Tryon-Shoyinka sacked Panthers quarterback Bryce Young and stripped him of the football, causing a fumble that was recovered by Greg Gaines with 6:19 remaining.

It was the third sack of Young for the Bucs, who pitched a shutout to clinch their third straight NFC South title.

“I was just waiting for a call like that so I would be able to just pin my ears back and go,” Tryon-Shoyinka said. “To be able to make a play like that and help a team clinch, that’s what you dream about as a pass rusher. That’s the vision you have as a kid when you go to bed playing this game. That’s big-time football getting into the playoffs. I’m excited for us as a team.”

The Bucs defense also forced two fumbles. None were bigger than when safety Antoine Winfield Jr. swiped the ball free from DJ Chark just before the receiver extended it over the goal line following a 42-yard reception that originally was ruled a touchdown.

“Man, if you don’t know about ‘Tweeze (Winfield),’ man, most of the NFL fans don’t,” Tryon-Shoyinka said. “Bucs fans do, and everyone in this locker room knows what he means for this team. We love having him here, and I’m sure everyone loves him, too. It’s amazing.”

One play before Tryon-Shoyinka’s strip sack, a 28-yard Raheem Blackshear touchdown run was nullified due to an illegal formation penalty against the Panthers.

“We got lucky right there,” Tryon-Shoyinka said. “Just being able to bounce back. To make a game-changing play, it was awesome.”

The Bucs had big expectations for Tryon-Shoyinka when he arrived in 2021. He won a starting job last season but only matched the four sacks he had as a rookie, the same number he’s produced this season. He lost his job to rookie Yaya Diaby, who had another sack Sunday to give him a team-leading 7½ on the season.

The Bucs were happy with the shutout, the second in as many games suffered by Carolina, which was held to 199 total yards.

”A goose egg on the scoreboard allows the offense to be free,” Tryon-Shoyinka said. “It makes it a lot easier.”

Bucs coach Todd Bowles praised the Bucs’ young players on defense, such as Diaby, defensive lineman Calijah Kancey and cornerback Zyon McCollum, for growing up quickly this season. Diaby finished with six tackles, including three solo stops.

“We play for each other,” Tryon-Shoyinka said. “We’ve got meaning when we step onto the field. We trust each other. That’s brotherhood, and that chemistry that we need. I’m excited. Especially in the postseason. That’s what postseason football is all about.”

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