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Buccaneers vs. Panthers Final Score: Carolina wins 19-17 in surprisingly close game

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The Buccaneers kept it close despite looking like much worse than the Panthers for most of the game, but they once again could not pull out a win at the end of the game.

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their 12th game of the season, being beaten by the Carolina Panthers and Derek Anderson for the second time this season in a game that wasn't anywhere near as close as the score suggests.

The Bucs were incapable of moving the ball on offense, with their offensive line being overrun every other play. Charles Johnson made right tackle Oniel Cousins look silly over and over again, and Josh McCown and company simply couldn't move the ball with any kind of consistency. One lost fumble near his own goal-line epitomized

Meanwhile, the Panthers offense was moving the ball nearly at will and Greg Olsen in particular turned out to be a real problem for the Bucs defense. But somehow, Tampa Bay found ways to hold the Panthers to field goals despite constantly allowing them to get into scoring position. The only time they allowed a touchdown was when Anderson was given the ball on the four-yard line following a Josh McCown fumble.

Somehow, the Bucs still made it a close game at the end of the game. Josh McCown led the Bucs down the field, finding Vincent Jackson repeatedly and running in the touchdown himself to cut the lead to 19-17 with three minutes left in the game. But the defense couldn't get the ball back, and the Panthers simply ran out the clock to hand the Bucs another loss -- and bringing them one step closer to the first overall pick.

Key statistics

Panthers offense: 387 yards, with 29 carries for 118 rushing yards.

Bucs offense: 287 yards, with 23 carries for 151 rushing yards.

Josh McCown: 13/28 for 154 yards and one touchdown, three sacks, one interception and one rushing touchdown.

Derek Anderson: 25/40 for 277 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a sack.

Doug Martin: 14 carries for 96 yards, including one 63-yard run.

Jonathan Stewart: 22 carries for 73 yards.

Vincent Jackson: 6 catches for 70 yards.

Greg Olsen: 10 catches for 110 yards.

Kelvin Benjamin: 8 catches for 104 yards.

First quarter

The Bucs started off with some pretty horrid plays, giving up first down on five out of the first six plays, with the sixth play being a botched snap by the Panthers. Both the run defense and pass defense looked useless during that first drive -- until the Panthers got to first-and-goal, at which point the defense finally tightened up and held them to a field goal.

Surprisingly, the Bucs offense was actually good. A 63-yard Doug Martin run out of nowhere got the Bucs into the red zone, and three plays later Mike Evans grabbed his 11th touchdown of the season.

The Panthers would come back with another field goal, as they marched down the field before getting bogged down by the Bucs' red zone defense again.

Second quarter

It looked like that offensive explosion was just a one-time thing. A three-and-out was followed by a missed Panthers field goal, as Carolina continued to easily move the ball but get stuck once they got into scoring territory. The Bucs offense then decided that seven points was enough, once again pushing themselves out of field goal range, a weekly ritual, and then punting from the opponent's 37-yard line.

Meanwhile, the Panthers offense continued to move the ball at will -- until they got into scoring range. They added another field goal right before the half to take a 9-7 lead, but the Bucs quickly re-took that lead with their own field goal in the two-minute warning -- mostly because Charles Sims got them into field goal range on three short passes for 45 yards.

Third quarter

After going without any penalties or turnovers in the first half, the Bucs decided that enough was enough and they couldn't play competent football for more than two quarters. The false start occurred on the first play from scrimmage, the sack-fumble on the third, and the Panthers scored that touchdown on the fifth to take a 16-10 lead.

That seemed to be the start of one of those patented third-quarter collapses, but the Bucs somehow recovered with a forced fumble in the red zone and by forcing the Panthers to punt for the first time. The offense still couldn't move the ball, though, and scoring points is pretty much a necessity if you're trailing in a game.

Fourth quarter

This wouldn't be a Bucs game without some completely baffling referee calls, though. Like reversing what appeared to be an incomplete pass into a fumble, even though McCown certainly seemed to actually propel the ball forward. Or negating an Orie Lemon interception with a very weak roughing-the-passer call on Larry English for patting Derek Anderson's helmet.

Alterraun Verner dropping an interception later, the Panthers kicked yet another field goal to go up 19-10. Still a manageable score, had the Bucs actually had any kind of offense. And they actually put up some offense at the end of the fourth quarter: Josh McCown found Vincent Jackson on stick routes over and over again to get them into the red zone, and he then ran the ball in himself.

It didn't matter, though. The Panthers simply ran out the clock as the Gerald McCoy-less Bucs defense couldn't stop Derek Anderson from finding his receivers for easy first downs to run out almostd all of the clock. With just 23 seconds left in the game and no timeouts, Josh McCown couldn't go down the field to get a game-winning field goal off.

Injuries

Injuries hit the Buccaneers pretty hard in this game. DT Gerald McCoy suffered a right knee injury during the first quarter and did not return. WR Louis Murphy suffered a knee injury in the second quarter but came back in the second half, and CB Isaiah Frey left with an ankle injury during the second quarter without returning.