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Panthers WR D. J. Chark Fumbles Through End Zone Vs. Bucs For Critical Turnover With NFC South At Stake | TheSportsDay Panthers WR D. J. Chark Fumbles Through End Zone Vs. Bucs For Critical Turnover With NFC South At Stake | TheSportsDay

Panthers WR D. J. Chark fumbles through end zone vs. Bucs for critical turnover with NFC South at stake

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DJ Chark Jr.'s fumble took a would-be Panthers touchdown off the board. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers caught a big early break on Sunday with the NFC South on the line.

Carolina Panthers receiver D.J. Chark turned a would-be touchdown into a turnover when he fumbled through the end zone against Tampa Bay as the Bucs looked to secure the division championship.

With the game tied, 0-0 early in the second quarter, Panthers quarterback Bryce Young found Chark wide open downfield on a pass play from Tampa Bay’s 43-yard line. Chark hauled it in, then sprinted down the left sideline for what was initially called a touchdown on the field.

But replay showed that he didn’t quite make it to the end zone. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. met him at the goal line and jarred the ball loose. Cornerback Jamel Dean recovered the loose ball in the end zone.

The Panthers celebrated the would-be touchdown as officials went to the replay booth to confirm the call. Officials determined that Winfield jarred the ball loose just before Chark crossed the goal line for his sixth forced fumble of the season. Just before reaching the goal line, Chark held the ball out with one hand in Winfield’s direction.

Instead of a touchdown, the play resulted in a Panthers turnover. The Bucs took over with a touchback at their own 20-yard line.

While the play meant little in the grand scheme for a 2-14 Panthers team long eliminated from the postseason, it had big implications for the rest of the NFC South. With a win on Sunday, the Bucs would clinch the division and its only playoff berth. A loss would open the door for the winner between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons to make the postseason.

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