Tom Brady got his first win with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, throwing for 217 yards, one touchdown and an interception in a 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
With another recent acquisition, Leonard Fournette, rushing for 103 yards and two TDs, Brady rebounded from a less-than-stellar debut for his new team to avoid starting a season with consecutive losses for the first time in a 21-year career.
The six-time Super Bowl champion also bounced back in Week 2 after dropping openers with the New England Patriots in 2003, 2014 and 2017.
Brady tossed a 23-yard TD pass to Mike Evans in the first quarter. Fournette scored on runs of 1 and 46 yards, the latter coming after Carolina rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit to pull within 24-17 on a pair of TD runs by Christian McCaffrey and Joey Slye’s 23-yard field goal with 1:57 remaining.
Brady completed 23 of 35 passes, and Evans finished with seven receptions for 104 yards. Fournette averaged 8.6 yards per carry on 12 rushing attempts.
Teddy Bridgewater was 33 of 42 for 367 yards and two interceptions for the Panthers (0-2), who had four turnovers.
McCaffrey, who spent most of the fourth quarter on the sideline with an apparent ankle injury, scored on runs of 1 and 7 yards and finished with 58 yards rushing and 29 receiving on four catches.
DJ Moore had eight catches for 120 yards and Robby Anderson had nine receptions for 109 yards for Carolina. Brady threw for 239 yards and two TDs during the previous week’s 34-23 season-opening loss at New Orleans. He also hurt the Bucs with a pair of interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown and drew criticism from coach Bruce Arians.
The defense set the tone for Sunday’s victory, forcing two turnovers within a three-play span of the first quarter after not having any takeaways during the season opener.
Jordan Whitehead’s interception preceded a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive Brady fueled with a 50-yard completion to Evans and that Carolina extended with a personal foul that gave the Bucs a first down at the Panthers 7.
Ronald Jones ran it in on the next play for a 7-0 lead Brady quickly built to two touchdowns after rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. sacked Bridgewater and Jason Pierre-Paul recovered to set up the 43-year-old quarterback’s 23-yard TD pass to Evans on the next play.
Fournette’s 1-yard scoring run, the fifth rushing TD Carolina has allowed in two games, increased the lead to 21-0.
Brady’s third interception of the season, and cornerback Donte Jackson’s 44-yard return into Buccaneers territory sparked Carolina’s comeback.
McCaffrey scored his second TD with 13:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Below are updates posted as the Tampa Bay-Carolina game unfolded.
1:48: Buccaneers 31, Panthers 17: On the first play after recovering an onside kick, the Bucs score again when running back Leonard Fournette broke through the line and raced 46 yards for the score.
1:57 - Buccaneers 24, Panthers 17: Joey Slye’s 24-yard field goal pulls Carolina within one score again. The Panthers attempted an onside kick but it was smothered by Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski.
6:13 - Buccaneers 24, Panthers 14: After LeSean McCoy dropped a pass from Tom Brady in the end zone, Tampa Bay settled for a 33-yard field goal by Ryan Succop for its first points of the second half.
13:25 - Buccaneers 21, Panthers 14: Christian McCaffrey’s 7-yard run pulled the Panthers within one score. McCaffrey’s second touchdown capped a 13-play, 88-yard drive that took 6:19.
8:36 - Buccaneers 21, Panthers 7: Carolina takes advantage of a Tampa Bay pass interference penalty in the end zone on third down and Christian McCaffrey runs it in from the 1-yard line to put the Panthers on the board.
14:01 - Buccaneers 21, Panthers 0: Rob Gronkowski is targeted for the first time today and Donte Jackson intercepts Brady’s pass and returns it to the Tampa Bay 47.
Brady and the Buccaneers are playing more fluidly on offense after last week’s early struggles against the Saints and lead the Panthers 21-0. Brady is 17-for-23 with 198 yards and a touchdown, and seven different receivers have at least one reception. Mike Evans has five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown and Justin Watson has two catches for 48 yards. Fourteen of Tampa Bay’s points have come off turnovers, thanks to Jason Pierre-Paul’s fumble recovery and Jordan Whitehead’s interception.
The Buccaneers defense has held Carolina to 122 yards of total offense. Brady has yet to target Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski played 54 snaps in Week 1 and was targeted three times.
3:01 - Buccaneers 21, Panthers 0: Leonard Fournette’s 1-yard touchdown puts Tampa Bay up big as the first half winds down.
4:52 - Buccaneers 14, Panthers 0: Brady connects with Justin Watson on a well-executed flea flicker for a first down.
10:06 - Buccaneers 14, Panthers 0: Brady and Ronald Jones have difficulty on a handoff and Jones fumbles. Woodrow Hamilton recovers for the Panthers and Carolina takes over at its own 41.
End first quarter - Buccaneers 14, Panthers 0: Brady finishes the first quarter 8-for-11 with 100 yards passing and a touchdown.
4:38 - Buccaneers 14, Panthers 0: On the first play after Jason Pierre-Paul recovers a Teddy Bridgewater fumble, Brady connects with Evans for a 23-yard touchdown to give the Bucs an early two-score lead.
5:42 - Buccaneers 7, Panthers 0: Brady engineers a 10-play, 81-yard drive, capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run from Ronald Jones to give Tampa Bay its first lead. The Bucs are helped out by a Panthers' late hit penalty on third down and a 50-yard pass to Mike Evans earlier in the drive.
13:56 - Buccaneers 0, Panthers 0: Brady and the Buccaneers go three and out after starting from their own 25-yard line after an incomplete pass on 3rd and 4.
Tom Brady has never started a season 0-2. What’s in store for him this Sunday as he makes his home debut with the Buccaneers when they host the Panthers?
As history tells us, some Hall of Fame quarterbacks who begin a season with a new team finish the year strongly, and others flame out into mediocrity. Brady’s numbers in Week 1 against the Saints — 23-for-36, 239 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions — weren’t too far off a typical Brady performance, but a pick-six in the third quarter to put the Saints up 24-7 stanched a Buccaneers comeback, and Tampa Bay lost 34-23.
“It’s one loss,” Brady told sportscaster Jim Gray on Monday. “We’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to move on and try to play better football next week.”
Rob Gronkowski made two catches for 11 yards in his Bucs debut.
The Panthers are also searching for their first win after a 34-30 loss to the Raiders last Sunday.
Follow along for live updates as Brady and the Bucs face another NFC South foe.