Josh Freeman completed 16-of-24 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown for the Bucs (1-0), who are looking to rebound from a 4-12 season last year -- a record that led to the firing of former coach Raheem Morris.
Doug Martin led Tampa Bay on the ground with 95 yards on 24 carries.
Carolina (0-1) got 303 passing yards from quarterback Cam Newton, but it wasn't enough to prevent a season-opening loss.
Newton went 23-of-33 with one touchdown and two interceptions. Steve Smith hauled down seven passes for 106 yards.