Winston's late TD pass pushes Bucs over Panthers
TAMPA, Fla. -- Jameis Winston threw the winning touchdown pass to Mike Evans with 3:13 to play, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 17-16 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Carolina drove for a tying touchdown but opted to go for two with 0:17 left, and Greg Olsen slipped in the end zone as Cam Newton's pass fell incomplete to give the Bucs the win.
Winston went 5-for-6 for 73 yards on the winning drive, hitting Evans for a 10-yard touchdown after the Bucs offense had mustered only three points in the first 57 minutes. The throw gave Winston the team record for touchdown passes in a season (28) and Evans tied his own record for TD catches in a season (12).
Tampa Bay (9-7) ended a two-game losing streak and completed a season sweep of Carolina (6-10) to finish second in the NFC South.
The Bucs seized momentum on the second play of the second half, when cornerback Brent Grimes intercepted Newton's pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead.
The Panthers tied the game on Graham Gano's 54-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
Carolina marched 75 yards on six plays on its opening drive, getting a 2-yard touchdown run from Jonathan Stewart for a 7-3 lead.
The Bucs' only points in the first half came on their first drive, when rookie Roberto Aguayo kicked a 33-yard field goal. Winston had two turnovers, one a deflected interception and the other a fumble as he was sacked after driving to the Carolina 29-yard line.
Tampa Bay missed a chance to cut into the lead late in the first half, but Aguayo's 46-yard field goal attempt missed wide left. Carolina attempted a 58-yard field goal by Gano, who missed short, and receiver Adam Humphries fielded the kick and returned it 76 yards to the Carolina 33, falling short of a rare NFL kick-six.
NOTES: The Bucs played without former Pro Bowl RB Doug Martin, who began serving a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing substances policy. ... Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston became the first QB in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons. ... Carolina played without LB Luke Kuechly, who missed a sixth game with concussion symptoms.