Here are the five key factors which led the team to victory, and it should come as no surprise the majority of them came from the defensive side of the ball.
Here we go!
THE PLAY: SEMINOLE INCEPTION
With the Buccaneers leading 10-7, the game had bogged down a bit after three of the game’s first four drives ended in points.
Five straight drives ended with punts or turnovers, but the Carolina Panthers were threatening at the Tampa Bay 25-yard line after moving the ball 50-yards on just six plays.
With 1:16 remaining in the first half, rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore was targeted on the pass by quarterback Cam Newton who - it would appear - read man coverage trying to hit Moore on a slant.
Newton might go to bed thinking Elliott was living in his head as the cornerback drifted out of his slot alignment and right into the path of the ball.
By the time running back Christian McCaffrey chased down the Florida State product, Elliott had returned the interception all the way back to the Carolina 32-yard line, instantly eating almost every yard his defense had surrendered on the drive.
Five plays later, the Bucs broke the scoreless run in the game themselves, but we’ll get to that in just a moment.
For an offense which thrives on rhythm and pace, this play was the second interception on the day for the Buccaneers defense and went a long way to preventing the Panthers from ever looking fully comfortable in the contest.
THE PLAY: WHO DOES NO. 2 WORK FOR?
Two weeks ago, effort from the second receiver position was questioned and in some cases hotly debated.
This weekend, Chris Godwin got his opportunity to play second-chair behind Mike Evans, and any questions of his own efforts wouldn’t be questioned after this pair of plays by the second-year receiver.
The first play will go down in the game book as a simple incompletion, but it was much more than that.
Jameis Winston has been playing better since being re-inserted into the starting lineup, but this pass had the potential to bring all of the angst and negativity swarming back upon the gunslinger as he threw a pass right into the breadbasket of Carolina safety Eric Reid.
While Reid was likely envisioning his own attempt to run the interception back, Godwin had other plans.
But if anyone thought his efforts on the play wouldn’t be replicated again, they were wrong, and it paid off for his team in a much more measurable way one play later.
With his quarterback scrambling and the first half winding down, Godwin found space in the back of the end zone and gave Winston a shot at completing a critical scoring pass.
The 13-yard touchdown was his first since October 14th against the Atlanta Falcons, and after the Cairo Santos extra point it gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 17-7 lead heading into halftime.
THE PLAY: NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S DPI
After the Carolina Panthers opened the second-half with a field goal, it was imperative the Buccaneers’ offense find a way to respond.
And respond they did, but they had a little help along the way.
Following a second holding penalty called against the Bucs on the drive, the offense had the ball and a 1st-and-20 from their own 47-yard line eight plays after they began the drive from their own 25-yard line.
Now, conventional wisdom says the Bucs should have gone with a fairly conservative play call to try and get some or all of the penalty yards back and then work from second and manageable from there.
Well, this team is anything but conventional, and on the first down play Winston took a nearly 70-yard shot into the end zone targeting wide receiver Bobo Wilson. Because. Well, why not?
The pass fell incomplete and following some incidental contact from Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson, Tampa Bay became the benefactor of a 52-yard defensive pass interference penalty which put the ball on their opponent’s 1-yard line, and gave them a first-and-goal.
Peyton Barber punched the ball into the end zone on the very next play, and the Buccaneers successfully answered Carolina’s second-half opening salvo with a big one of their own.
THE PLAY: GMAC GETS THE ASSIST
Gerald McCoy finished the game with one tackle. Not for a loss either. Just a run-of-the-mill tackle. No sacks. One tackle.
However, it’s his unmeasured contributions which add him to the list this week.
On both of Newton’s second-half turnovers - both coming on the Tampa Bay side of the field with the Panthers down just one score - McCoy applied the pressure and quarterback hit which caused the passes to come out lame, and directly led to both critical takeaways for the defense.
They may not get notched on official stat sheets, and you might have to go to third-party sites to find the stats at all, but his pressure on the opposing quarterback in key fourth quarter moments directly led to the team’s victory.
THE PLAY: WHO?
Andrew Adams. That’s who.
The 26-year old from Georgia played his collegiate ball at Connecticut and had one career interception coming into Week 13 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His lone interception prior to this weekend came in 2016 when he appeared in fourteen games for the New York Giants.
So, unless you’re Jason Pierre-Paul, you probably didn’t have a good grasp of who Adams is as a player.
Well, everyone knows who he is now. After three interceptions against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, Adams will surely be in the running for some Player of the Week honors, and his name will be on the lips of Bucs fans everywhere.
If his ball awareness and interceptions weren’t enough, Adams also gave full credit to the defensive line and his coaches for setting the defense up for success by getting consistent pressure on Newton all afternoon. Classy move, young man.
And that is how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers in Week 13.
Which factor contributed the greatest to the Bucs’ Week 13 win?
This poll is closed
Javien Elliott’s early interception
Chris Godwin’s effort at the end of the first half
DPI on Donte Jackson
Gerald McCoy’s pressure on Cam Newton
Andrew Adams (Triple-A)