The Carolina Panthers gave Tampa Bay an opportunity at momentum when special teamer Dante Wesley made an uncharacteristically dirty play near the end of the first half.
Wesley was ejected from the game after his vicious hit on Buccaneers return man Clifton Smith, who was knocked out, and didn't return to the game because of a concussion.
The hit triggered a melee near the Bucs sideline, as players from both sides streamed to the middle of the field before game officials eventually regained control.
Panthers coach John Fox didn't defend the action — which would have been impossible — but he did testify for his eighth-year special teams mainstay.
“I know the kid and I know the kid's character, and I know he would never do anything like that intentionally, anything cheap,” Fox said. “It's unfortunate, but it happens. I'm sure he'll learn from it.”
Wesley certainly will be fined and could be suspended, though the league generally takes a few days to determine such punishments.