Wrap-up: Panthers 38, Buccaneers 19

Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers 38-19 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

What it means: Both teams are 4-8, but that’s about the only thing the teams have in common these days. This was a big step for the Panthers. It marked the first time they’ve put together back-to-back wins since the arrival of coach Ron Rivera. The Panthers seem to be building some positive momentum that might carry over into next season. This was a low point for the Bucs as they lost their sixth straight game. The previous five came against good teams. The Panthers don’t quite fit that profile. But the Panthers clearly have moved ahead of the Bucs at the bottom of the NFC South.

What I liked: Carolina’s defense. This unit has been having major problems all season. But the Panthers stepped up and played perhaps their best defensive game of the season. The Bucs were forced to settle for four first-half field goals. Carolina’s run defense has struggled all season. But the Panthers did a very nice job keeping LeGarrette Blount under control.

What I didn’t like: Tampa Bay’s offense. Let’s not give all the credit to Carolina’s defense. Tampa Bay’s offense was playing without starting quarterback Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson started in his place. Blount is the kind of physical runner who has given the Panthers fits all season, but he never got on track and wasn’t much of a factor after the Panthers built a big lead.

What’s next: The Panthers host the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday. The Buccaneers travel to Jacksonville next Sunday.