The two teams met for the first time in 1995 when the Panthers were an expansion team. However, the rivalry did not develop until 2002, when the Buccaneers and Panthers were placed in the newly formed NFC South division, resulting in two meetings annually. The matchup immediately became popular, and by many accounts intensified into a heated rivalry starting in 2003, as the Buccaneers and Panthers were contenders for the NFC South title for much of the early-to-mid 2000s.
The annual games have been described as "physical" and numerous players have suffered season-ending injuries. Among the most serious was Chris Simms, who suffered a ruptured spleen in 2006 and Kavika Pittman who suffered a career-ending knee injury. Return specialist Clifton Smith suffered concussions in both meetings in 2009, the first from a high hit by Dante Wesley, who was subsequently ejected and suspended for one game.
The Panthers lead the overall series, 23–14. The two teams have not met in the playoffs.
The Carolina Panthers joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1995. For the first seven years of their existence, they were part of the NFC West division, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were part of the NFC Central during that time. The two teams happened to play as intra-conference opponents in the Panthers' inaugural season. The Buccaneers won 20-13 after a quarterback sneak by Casey Weldon in the fourth quarter. This game took place at Clemson University, the Panthers temporary home during their first season.
The teams met again the following season (1996), with Carolina prevailing 24-0. It was the only shutout in the series' history, on the way to Carolina's first appearance in the NFC Championship Game. It was also the first meeting at the newly constructed Ericsson Stadium. The two teams would never meet at Tampa Stadium before it was demolished.
In 2002, the Panthers and Buccaneers were placed into the newly formed NFC South division. They became division rivals, and would begin an annual two-game, home/away series each season. In 2002, Tampa Bay swept the regular season series en route to their Super Bowl victory. The second meeting, at Tampa, was a highly anticipated defensive struggle - Tampa Bay entered the game ranked #1 in total defense, while Carolina ranked #3. However, Tampa Bay won a largely one-sided contest. The Buccaneers racked up 314 yards of offense, forced four turnovers, and sacked Peete four times. The Buccaneers won by a score of 23-10, improving to 8-2 on the season, a franchise record after ten games.
In 2003, the Buccaneers hosted Carolina in Week 2. The game turned into an embarrassment for Tampa Bay, and marked the point at which the rivalry firmly established and began to intensify. A defensive-oriented game saw young Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme held to only 9-for-23, 96 yards and two interceptions. Meanwhile, Brad Johnson threw for 339 yards. Special teams breakdowns cost the Buccaneers dearly. After two earlier botched field goal attempts, the Buccaneers trailed 9-3 late in the fourth quarter. On the last play of regulation, Brad Johnson connected to Keenan McCardell for a dramatic game-tying touchdown pass in the back of the endzone time expired. The extra point would have given Tampa Bay the win. Martin Gramatica's extra point attempt, however, was blocked. The game went to overtime tied 9-9. Both teams traded possessions, and with just over 6 minutes left in the overtime period, Tampa Bay punted to Carolina. Steve Smith returned the punt 52 yards to the Tampa Bay 40-yard line. Five plays later, Carolina won 12-9 after a 47-yard field goal.
In week 10 of the 2003 season, the surging Panthers hosted the now-sputtering Buccaneers. Carolina broke out to a 20-7 lead through three quarters, but the Buccaneers rallied in the fourth quarter for 17 points. Tampa Bay took a 24-20 lead with 2:45 to go. The Buccaneer defense, however, failed to keep Carolina at bay, and Jake Delhomme swiftly led the Panthers to a game-winning touchdown with 1:11 left. Carolina, nicknamed the "Cardiac Cats" that season, swept the season series for the first time, en route to their first Super Bowl appearance.
Both Carolina and Tampa Bay were playoff contenders in 2005, and battled neck-and-neck all season for the NFC South division title. The first meeting on November 6 at Raymond James Stadium saw both teams enter at 5-2, and in a tie for first place in the division. The Panthers intercepted Chris Simms twice, one returned for a touchdown, and Carolina rolled 34-14. It was Carolina's fifth straight victory against Tampa Bay, the longest winning streak between the two teams in the series' history.
On December 11, Tampa Bay and Carolina faced each other again, with the division title effectively on the line. Tampa Bay broke a five-game losing streak to Carolina, winning by a score of 20-10. With 11:47 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ronde Barber intercepted Jake Delhomme, which set up a game-icing touchdown by Carnell Williams.
Neither team made the playoffs in 2006, however, the first meeting between the two teams on September 24 is remembered for the injury to Chris Simms. Both teams entered at 0-2, and the game turned into a hard-hitting, physical contest in hot, humid conditions. Late in the third quarter, Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms was hit on a two-yard bootleg play. He had to momentarily leave the game. Initially diagnosed as bruised ribs, Simms returned minutes later to lead a go-ahead field goal drive. Simms received several other vicious hits that likely aggravated his condition. Carolina got the ball back with less than two minutes left. With only six seconds left in regulation, Panthers kicker John Kasay kicked a game-winning field goal, and Carolina won 26-24.
After the game, Simms complained of ongoing pain, and was admitted to the hospital. It was discovered that he had suffered a ruptured spleen, was experiencing internal bleeding, and required immediate emergency surgery. Had the injury not been diagnosed in a timely manner, it could have been fatal. Simms was placed on injured reserve, and ultimately never played another down with the Buccaneers.
On December 8, 2008, the teams met tied atop division and were fighting for a possible first-round playoff bye. The game had a "playoff atmosphere." The game turned Carolina's way early, and despite a Bucs rally, the Panthers won convincingly. Carolina steamrolled the Buccaneers defense with 299-yard rushing, and essentially clinched the NFC South division with the victory. The loss started Tampa Bay on a downhill spiral, and the Buccaneers dropped the next three games as well. Tampa Bay fell to 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Shortly thereafter, head coach Jon Gruden was fired. Carolina improved to 12-4 and won the division, but were knocked out of the playoffs in the division round by Arizona.
In 2011, Carolina, behind rookie QB Cam Newton, swept the series in dominating fashion. In the first meeting, Tampa Bay wore their orange throwback uniforms, but were without Josh Freeman due to injury. The Panthers rolled 38-19, with Newton setting a single-season NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Three weeks later, Newton set the NFL rookie passing yards record, also against Tampa Bay, routing the Buccaneers 48-16.
In 2012, Tampa Bay rebounded to sweep the season series. The two teams met in Week 1, with the Buccaneers prevailing 16-10. Tampa Bay held the Panthers and Cam Newton to only 10 yards rushing. In Week 11, the two teams met again in another close game. The Panthers led 21-10 with just over four minutes left in regulation. A field goal by Tampa Bay trimmed the lead to 21-13. The Buccaneers got the ball back with 1:02 left in the fourth quarter. Josh Freeman drove the Buccaneers 80 yards for a touchdown with 20 seconds to go. The two-point conversion tied the game at 21, sending it to overtime. Tampa Bay won the coin toss, and proceeded to score an 80-yard touchdown drive on the first possession, winning 27-21.
The Panthers swept the Buccaneers in 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2015, Carolina won both meetings en route to their appearance in Super Bowl 50. In week 17, Carolina's 38-10 victory gave them a franchise-best 15-1 regular season record. A few days after the game, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith was dismissed.
Tampa Bay snapped Carolina's six game winning streak in the series in 2016. With Newto] sidelined due to a concussion, Derek Anderson started for Carolina. Anderson threw two interceptions and lost one fumble. With the game tied 14-14, Tampa Bay drove to the Panthers 20 yard line in the final minute. After missing two attempts earlier in the game, Roberto Aguayo kicked a 38-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. In week 17, Tampa Bay won by a score of 17-16. The Buccaneers secured the victory when the Panthers failed on a game-winning two-point conversion attempt with 17 seconds remaining in regulation.
The National Football Conference – Southern Division or NFC South is one of the four divisions of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). It was created prior to the 2002 NFL season, when the league realigned divisions after expanding to 32 teams. The NFC South currently has four member clubs: the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Prior to the 2002 season, the Buccaneers belonged to the AFC West (1976) and NFC Central (1977–2001), while the other three teams were part of the geographically inaccurate NFC West. As a matter of fact, the South has more multiple-season members of the old NFC West than the current NFC West does (the Seattle Seahawks are in the current West, but they only played in that division during their inaugural season).
The NFC South is the only division since the 2002 realignment to have each of its teams make a conference championship game appearance as well as a Super Bowl appearance: Tampa Bay (2002), Atlanta (2004, 2012, and 2016), Carolina (2003, 2005 and 2015), and New Orleans (2006, 2009, and 2018). Also since 2002, each team has won at least three division titles, the only such division in the league. It is also the only NFL division to have zero division sweeps by any of its member teams.
Entering 2016, the Saints have the most wins among division members. The Saints record is 356–435–5; their win in Super Bowl XLIV is the highlight of an 8–9 playoff record. The Falcons record is 330–432–6 with a playoff record of 9–13; the Falcons lost in Super Bowls XXXIII and LI, the latter in overtime. The Buccaneers record is 241–386–1 with a victory in their only Super Bowl appearance, Super Bowl XXXVII, and an overall playoff record of 6–9. The Panthers have the best playoff record (9–8) of any team in the division with losses in Super Bowls XXXVIII and 50 and the best overall record in the division (166–169–1).
The NFC South is the only NFC division not to have any teams that predate the 1960 launch of the American Football League, the NFL’s former rival league. The oldest team is the Falcons, who began play in 1966, and the Saints began play only a year later in 1967. Each of the other NFC divisions has 3 teams that began play earlier than 1960, while the remaining three such teams are in the American Football Conference.
The NFC South became the second division in five years to have a champion with a losing record, as the 2014 Carolina Panthers won the division with a 7–8–1 record. (The 2010 Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7–9 record.) Additionally, Carolina became the first team to repeat as NFC South champions since the creation of the division. The Panthers are the only team to win the NFC South three consecutive times from 2013 to 2015. On January 7, 2018 two NFC South teams (Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints) met in the NFL playoffs for the first time since the division was created in 2002.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers Season-by-Season Results|
1990s (Buccaneers, 2–1)
2000s (Panthers, 11–5)
2010s (Panthers, 11–7)
Summary of Results
|Culture and lore|
|Wild card berths (3)|
|Division championships (6)|
|Conference championships (1)|
|League championships (1)|
|Hall of Famers|
|Current league affiliations|
Championship seasons in bold
|Culture and lore|
|Hall of Honor|
|Wild card berths (2)|
|Division championships (6)|
|Conference championships (2)|
|Current league affiliations|