As with all rivalries involving the Carolina Panthers, this one is relatively young compared to the historic franchises that have been around for nearly a century. However, these two teams are in the same division and face each other at least twice a season. Any time there is that much contact between two sports teams, bad blood is likely to occur. While this rivalry is still in its infancy, it certainly already has its share of memorable moments, and the stage is set for the rivalry to continue to grow.
History of Panthers vs. Buccaneers Rivalry
Carolina joined the league as an expansion team in 1995. For the first seven years of their existence, they were part of the NFC West division, while Tampa Bay was part of the NFC Central during that time. Despite not being in the same division, the Bucs and Panthers met in Carolina’s inaugural season. The Buccaneers won 20-13 on a late quarterback sneak in the first matchup between the two. This game took place at the University of Clemson, which was the Panthers’ home during their first season.
The teams met again the following season, with Carolina prevailing 24-0. It remains to this day the only shutout in series history on the way to Carolina’s first appearance in the NFC Championship Game. In 1998, the two teams met one additional time prior to being placed in the same division. Tampa Bay pulled off a three-point victory when longtime Panthers kicker John Kasey missed a kick at the end of regulation.
In 2002, due to additional expansion and division realignment, Carolina and Tampa Bay were both moved to the newly formed NFC South. Thus began 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 first year of being divisional foes sparked an intense rivalry. Between the two games that year, a feud developed between Panthers punter Todd Sauerbrun and Buccaneers kicker Martín Gramática. Sauerbrun felt that Gramática’s celebrations were over the top and amounted to showing up the Panthers. Sauerbrun called all three Gramática brothers “idiots” in the media, while Martín had to be restrained from physically going after him. Years later, Sauerbrun called the brothers “greaseballs” and spoke out against Bill Gramática joining the Panthers.
In 2009, a fight broke out between the teams after a dirty hit by a member of the Panthers special team unit. Although the fight was quickly broken up, it showed that there was still mutual dislike between the franchises. By 2011, Cam Newton was a member of the Panthers and the rivalry really began to turn in Carolina’s favor. 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.
Head to Head Analysis of Panthers vs. Buccaneers
Carolina leads the all-time series between the two franchises 23-14. The largest win in series history was a 48-16 win by the Panthers in 2011. Carolina also has the longest winning streak in the series with a six-game streak from 2013 until 2016. The Buccaneers have never won more than three in a row against the Panthers, and that was all the way back in the late 1990s-early 2000’s when the Panthers’ franchise was still in its infancy.
The location of the games has not really had too much of a bearing on the outcome. The two teams have gone to overtime twice, with the visiting team winning both instances. In Tampa Bay, the Panthers hold an 11-7 edge, while the Panthers hold a 12-7 advantage in Charlotte. The rivalry is often headlined as a defensive struggle. Both franchises have finished in the top ten in total defense multiple times, and four times (1996, 2002, 2003, 2005) both teams finished in the top ten in the same year. However, despite several defense-oriented games, the series has seen its share of high-scoring, high offense outputs.
Carolina has swept Tampa Bay nine times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017). Tampa Bay has swept Carolina four times (2002, 2010, 2012, 2016). The two clubs have met on Monday Night Football three times but have never met in the playoffs. These two franchises have never competed in the preseason either, despite their proximity to each other and the fact they did not share a division from 1995-2001.
A Glance at Postseason Success in Panthers vs. Buccaneers
Overall, the Buccaneers have the only Super Bowl Championship, winning in 2002. The year after that Super Bowl win, the Carolina Panthers represented the NFC in the Super Bowl but fell short. Carolina also made the Super Bowl in 2015, but they lost that one as well. They are still looking for their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
Panthers vs. Buccaneers Rivalry Outlook
Carolina and Tampa Bay have both been known for their tough defense over the years. Lately, for the Bucs especially, the defense has begun to flounder as the NFL has adopted a more run ‘n gun type of style. To capitalize on this, the Bucs drafted Jameis Winston to be their franchise quarterback, but it remains to be seen how long he will stick around. Franchise quarterbacks do not get benched in favor of career journeymen, as Winston was in the 2018 season.
Carolina suffered through an average season in 2018, hampered by an injured Cam Newton. With their defense getting older, more and more pressure will be put on the quarterback and the offense to score points. Moving forward, the AFC South should be deep and highly competitive. Since 2015, these two franchises have seen themselves fall to the bottom of the pack in the NFC South. It will be interesting to see them clawing at each other as they attempt to climb out of—and remain out of—the cellar.