Minus McCaffrey, Panthers knock off Buccaneers

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Somebody forgot to tell the Carolina Panthers they were in tank mode after trading star running back Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers and wide receiver Robbie Anderson to the Arizona Cardinals.

Carolina defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 21-3, on Sunday to hand quarterback Tom Brady one of the biggest upsets of his career in terms of being a favorite. It also left Brady with a sub-.500 record (3-4) for the first time since 2002, when the New England Patriots started 3-4.

It was the first win for interim Carolina coach Steve Wilks, who replaced Matt Rhule two weeks ago after Rhule was fired a day after the team fell to 1-4 with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Buccaneers were a 13-point favorite against Carolina (2-5), which had lost 12 of its last 13 games dating back to last season. Brady’s biggest upsets in terms of points spread were 2007 to the New York Jets (12.5 points), 2012 to Arizona (13.5 points) and 2019 to Miami (17 points). Tampa Bay lost as a 9.5-point favorite last week.

The win left the Panthers only one game back in the NFC South behind Tampa Bay (3-4) and the Atlanta Falcons (3-4) with a road game against Atlanta next on the schedule.

They pulled the upset with a defense that held a Brady-led team scoreless in the first three quarters and an efficient offense led by quarterback P.J. Walker.

Walker had two touchdown passes to improve his record as an NFL starter to 3-1 and make a case for him to remain the starter when Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold return from ankle injuries, perhaps as early as this week.

Walker completed four of his first five passes of 20-plus air yards for two touchdowns. He was 5-for-21 with no touchdowns and three interceptions on those passes since entering the league in 2020.

Carolina’s run game didn’t miss a beat without McCaffrey, who entered the day fourth in the league in total yards from scrimmage. Chuba Hubbard started and had 63 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. D’Onta Foreman added 118 yards on 15 carries.

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