Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished strong in the regular season by defeating the visiting Carolina Panthers 41-17 on Sunday.
The reigning Super Bowl champions hold a 13-4 record entering the playoffs. Tampa Bay scored 24 fourth-quarter points to put away the Panthers.
Brady threw for 326 yards on 29-for-37 passing, with two of the TD passes going to Mike Evans.
Rob Gronkowski made seven catches for 137 yards and Evans finished with 89 yards on six receptions.
The Buccaneers had to await the overtime result between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers to determine their seeding in the NFC.
The Panthers (5-12) lost seven consecutive games to end their second season under coach Matt Rhule. Two of the last three defeats came to the Buccaneers, who won 32-6 in Charlotte, N.C.
It’s the worst record in NFL history for a team that began the season with a 3-0 record.
Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold threw for two touchdowns and an interception. He was 29-for-42 for 219 yards to finish his first season with the team.
Tampa Bay led only 17-10 entering the fourth quarter. On the first play of the quarter, Brady connected with Evans for a 3-yard touchdown.
The Panthers responded when Darnold threw 19 yards to Robby Anderson for a score.
Three minutes later, Brady hooked up with Evans for a 20-yard touchdown play. Ryan Succop’s second field goal of the day and Scotty Miller’s 33-yard touchdown run added to Tampa Bay’s late-game scoring.
The Panthers scored first on Chuba Hubbard’s 2-yard reception from Darnold in the first quarter.
The Buccaneers didn’t lead until Le’Veon Bell took a 1-yard toss from Brady with 15 seconds left in the first half for what became a 10-7 edge. That concluded a 92-yard, eight-play drive.
Tampa Bay padded the lead on the opening possession of the second half by marching 77 yards in seven plays with Ke’Shawn Vaughn running in from 2 yards out.
–Field Level Media