Bucs Tame the Cats 27-3

It was an ugly afternoon for the Carolina Panthers, as the offense took a beat-down from the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay finally put an end to Carolina’s winning streak at Raymond James Stadium; it only took six years to reclaim their house from their NFC South rivals.

They did it in grand fashion, too, effectively taming the big cats, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, while also holding Steve Smith in check. Buccaneer Warrick Dunn became the first running back to bust the Panthers for over a hundred yards rushing; and Ernest Graham earned a touchdown on a 1-yard rush.

Tampa Bay is now on top of Carolina for the NFC South, even though they are tied. Is this Panther team really any different than in years past? They are simply underwhelming when on top; confidence is a killer for Carolina. Albeit, Tampa Bay had a lot to prove in this game; it was extremely hot, especially for a defense that probably felt like they never left the field; and Jake had no mojo; but 27-3?

It is going to be a long season for Fox & Co. if they don’t figure out how to stop the blocked punts; at the very least, let’s be thankful that no harm has come to Jason Baker. Three blocked punts in six games – with 2 returned for touchdowns… who needs the still-decent defense if special teams lets everyone in? This alarming trend has the ability to derail their whole season; only a few minutes into the game, Buccaneer rookie Geno Hayes blocked one and returned it 22 yards for a TD… this set the tone for the rest of the contest. Unlike the Bears game, the Panthers were never able to overcome it.

The Buccaneers are out to prove that their defense is still top-ten worthy, and that they will not fall victim to the NFC South curse: the team that wins the division bottoms out the next year, and vice versa… and today they succeeded handily. The vaunted Tampa Bay defense held rookie running back Jonathan Stewart to 27 yards on 11 carries, and kept DeAngelo Williams to 12 yards on 6 attempts. Jake Delhomme never got into rhythm, and went 20/39 with 242 yards and 3 picks. Steve Smith had 6 catches for 112 yards, but let one go through his hands to rookie corner Aquib Talib; Smith was not alone, as there were many dropped balls and missed chances to go around. Moreover, Muhsin Mohammad battled in the endzone, with Talib, and Jermaine Phillips came away with the interception.

The only good news for Carolina was that left tackle Jordan Gross returned from a nasty concussion; and the offensive line also did not give up any sacks. Speaking of sacks, Julius Peppers had none to record this week.

Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia was efficient and effective, and showed the skills that led Tampa to the playoffs last season. Garcia went 15 of 20 for 173 yards, with a touchdown and no picks.

Carolina faces another division rival, the New Orleans Saints, next Sunday at home.

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