The Carolina Panthers closed the regular season with a 41-17 road loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon; their seventh straight gives the Panthers a final record of 5-12.
Panthers QB Sam Darnold finished the game 29-of-42 for 219 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and one fumble lost. Rookie Chuba Hubbard was Carolina’s leading rusher, carrying the ball nine times for 48 yards (5.3 yards per attempt).
After sacking Tom Brady on Tampa’s first series, the Panthers defense didn’t bring down the future Hall of Fame quarterback the rest of the day.
Brady finished 29-of-37 for 326 yards and three touchdowns against zero interceptions. Tight end Rob Gronkowski dominated the middle of the field, catching seven passes for 137 yards. Receiver Mike Evans also caught six passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
After starting the 2021 season 3-0, the Panthers lost 12 of their remaining 14 games.
Head coach Matt Rhule looked like he might be on the hot seat coming into the week, but multiple reports ahead of Sunday’s game made it likely Rhule will be back with the Panthers in 2022.
In two seasons as head coach, Rhule is 10-23.
Carolina will be looking for a new offensive coordinator after firing Joe Brady late in the season. According to ESPN, Carolina is expected to target former NFL head coaches Jay Gruden and Bill O’Brien for the open position. Gruden coached the Washington Football Team from 2014-2019 while O’Brien — who is currently the offensive coordinator for Alabama — coached the Texans from 2014 to 2020.
The Panthers will have the No. 6 overall pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Carolina’s next pick, however, doesn’t come until late in the fourth round because the club traded away the second and third round picks.
Among the Panthers who are free agents this offseason include cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Donte Jackson and edge rusher Haason Reddick, who led the team in sacks with 11.