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Panthers long season continues with 31-16 loss in Tampa

The Panthers upset bid in Tampa was stuffed Sunday, as the Bucs used their upstart QB Josh Freeman and a variety of other young players to pound the Panthers 31-16.

Carolina was not the team many had envisioned this preseason, as due to injuries they had their fourth-team tailback out on the field, their quarterback of the future and a backup tailback who was with his third team in the span of a week.

Rookie QB Jimmy Clausen made his fourth start at quarterback for injury-riddled Panthers, which got 100 yards rushing on 23 carries from fourth-string running back Mike Goodson. Clausen was 16 of 29 passing for 191 yards and no interceptions. He was sacked twice.

All in all, they were no match for the Bucs, who move to 6-3. Freeman was 18 for 24 for 241 yards with two TD’s and a QB ranking of 134.2.

Josh Vaughan scored on a 2-yard run and John Kasay kicked field goals of 46, 28 and 48 yards for the Panthers, who also drove to the Tampa Bay 1 in the closing seconds only to have Clausen denied the end zone on consecutive quarterback sneaks.

“I thought Jimmy played well enough to give us a chance, and I think he’ll continue to improve,” coach John Fox said of the second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame.

“We knew it was going to be tough sledding. Their quarterback does an outstanding job,” Fox said. “They operate pretty smooth in the passing game, and I thought they did so today as well.”

The loss assured the Panthers (1-8) of their sixth non-winning season in Fox’s nine years. One has to wonder if this will be his last.

The Panthers defense was beat up by the Bucs, as after allowing an average of 301.7 yards a game their first seven games, the Panthers have surrendered 400 yards in back-to-back games, including a season-high 421 to the Bucs.

“Some of those third downs killed us,” safety Charles Godfrey said. “I don’t think we played as good as we needed to play as a defense. We had a couple of mishaps here and there. We have to get back to playing the defense that we play. The offense picked it up a little bit.”

It seems like the never ending season for the Panthers, who now get ready for the 6-3 Ravens, who were beaten Thursday night in Atlanta.

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