Buccaneers clinch NFC South title with 9-0 win over Panthers

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Chase McLaughlin kicked three field goals, the Tampa Bay defense pitched a shutout and the Buccaneers won their third straight NFC South title with a 9-0 victory on Sunday over the Carolina Panthers.

Tampa Bay (9-8) was facing an all-or-nothing scenario entering Sunday’s game with a win clinching a playoff spot and a loss resulting in elimination.

The Buccaneers weren’t exactly impressive on offense with Baker Mayfield held to 137 yards in his return to Carolina, but the defense — aided by some self-inflected wounds by Carolina — did just enough to keep the Panthers off the board.

The Panthers became the first NFL team since at least 1991 to fail to run a single play while leading in the fourth quarter of a game. Both of Carolina’s wins this season came on field goals at the end of regulation when it was trailing.

Bryce Young finished 11 of 18 for 94 yards and the Panthers had two potential touchdowns overturned.

Carolina, which lost 26-0 to the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, became the first team to be shutout in back-to-back games since the Cleveland Browns in 2008. It marked the first time in the Panthers’ 29-year history they’ve been blanked in consecutive games.

The Panthers (2-15) finished with the NFL’s worst record and the franchise’s second-worst winning percentage, topping only a 1-15 season in 2001 under George Seifert. However, Carolina won’t get the benefit of the No. 1 overall draft pick, as that will go to the Chicago Bears as part of the trade for Young.

Mayfield spent last season with the Panthers, but went 1-5 as a starter and was released midseason. He played through some sore ribs, and completed 20 of 32 passes. Rachaad White ran for 75 yards for Tampa Bay.

The Bucs took a 6-0 lead at halftime behind field goals of 36 and 57 yards from McLaughlin. McLaughlin added a 39-yarder in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers repeatedly made key mistakes, just as bad teams do.

In the second quarter, DJ Chark caught a pass from Young and raced 43 yards down the sideline for an apparent touchdown. But replays confirmed Chark fumbled as he attempted to jump across the goal line, and the Bucs recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

And, at the end of the third quarter, fill-in kicker Matthew Wright missed a 52-yard field goal after Young took a sack — his 61st of the season — on third down, resulting in a costly 9-yard loss.

And running back Raheem Blackshear had a 28-yard touchdown run called back in the fourth quarter when the Panthers were flagged for an illegal formation.

INJURIES

Buccaneers: None reported.

Panthers: Panthers tight end Tommy Tremble left the game in the first half with a back injury.

UP NEXT

Buccaneers: The Bucs clinched the fourth seed in the NFC and will host the fifth seed, which will be either the Philadelphia Eagles or the Dallas Cowboys, whichever team doesn’t win the NFC East.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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