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Buccaneers' defense overpowers Panthers

Oct 1, 2007 - 1:54 AM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- There is reason to fear the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense again.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia ran for a score and let his defense do the rest as the Buccaneers took over first place in the NFC South with a convincing 20-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The once-heralded Tampa Bay defense took a step back last season, finishing 21st in the league, but the squad appears to be back on track. The Buccaneers smothered the Panthers' offense, allowing just 13 first downs and 236 yards of offense, most of those coming late in the contest.

"Defensively, I can't say enough," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "I expect more. I expect more fro them because I really believe their talented."

Tampa Bay (3-1) came within 23 seconds of a shutout, but DeAngelo Williams scored on a 24-yard touchdown reception in the final moments to spoil the bid. The Bucs did shut out the Panthers (2-2) in the first half, marking the third consecutive week that the Buccaneers have not been scored upon in the first two quarters.

"As a whole, we came out and did some good things," said rookie defensive end Gaines Adams, the team's No. 1 pick. "We played hard-nosed defense. We saw some good things and the coaches put us in a position to make plays. We just have to continue to play hard."

While they won the game, the Buccaneers may have lost running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams for a substantial period of time.

The team's first round pick in 2005, who was already nursing sore ribs, left the game in the first quarter with a serious right knee injury and team officials indicated it could be season-ending.

"I don't know anything. That's why I said I'm really concerned," Gruden said. "I don't want to say anything I can't backup.

Michael Pittman picked up the slack in Williams' absence, carrying 15 times for 90 yards, and sounded like he is prepared to do more of the same in the future.

"Cadillac's a great athlete, our go-to guy on offense," Pittman said. "When I came in at halftime ... and he knows he's gone for the season ... it's an unfortunate situation. But me and Earnest (Graham) got to step up and got to share the load.

"I've been a starter in this league and I know what it takes and what is expected. I'm going to continue to do the same things."

Winners of three straight, the Buccaneers also benefited from the fact that Panthers starting quarterback Jake Delhomme was sidelined with an elbow injury.

David Carr got the start in his place and struggled, finishing 19-of-41 for 155 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The 2002 first-round draft pick of the Houston Texans was booed off the field after overthrowing Drew Carter on a 4th-and-2 in the fourth quarter.

"We made a couple of plays but we didn't make enough of them against this football team to win," Carr said. "As the quarterback, I take responsibility for it. I could have made more plays to those guys and put us in a position to win."

While the defense was giving Carolina fits, Jeff Garcia and the Tampa Bay offense played a steady game and provided a comfortable lead.

On the opening drive of the game, Garcia marched the Buccaneers 71 yards on 11 plays, capping things himself with a 3-yard touchdown run. The lead swelled to 14-0 late in the first quarter when Earnest Graham pounded his way into the end zone from a yard out.

That would be all the Buccaneers defense needed, although Matt Bryant tacked on field goals of 25 and 38 yards later in the game to provide insurance.

"Offensively, we took the opening drive and we did exactly what we came here to do," Gruden said. "We had turnovers in the second half that took points off the board. ... Other than that, I was very impressed with what we did against a great Carolina team that's given us a lot of looks."

Defensive back Phillip Buchanon led the defensive effort with six tackles and safety Jermaine Phillips pulled in the team's lone interception.

"There wasn't one phase where we can feel good walking away from that game," Carolina coach John Fox said. "I think they played well, particularly on defense. We just couldn't get much going."

Garcia finished 15-of-25 for 176 yards with no interceptions. The 37-year-old veteran has thrown for 771 yards this season and completed 64 percent (58-for-90) of his passes without an interception.

Ike Hilliard had seven catches and 114 receiving yards for the Buccaneers, who beat the Panthers for just the second time in their last nine meetings.

"It could have easily been Joey (Galloway) making the plays, but today it just happened to be me," Hilliard said. "Obviously, we wanted to be able to come out and put points on the board. When you're on the road, playing a real good team, you want to be able to build momentum, and build a cushion for our defense."

Additionally, Tampa Bay offensive tackle Luke Petitgout left the game in the second quarter with a right knee sprain and did not return.








  • NFL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    TAMPA BAY 14 3 0 3 20
    CAROLINA 0 0 0 7 7 FINAL
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: TAM - TD, JEFF GARCIA 3 YD RUN (MATT BRYANT
    KICK), 6:17. Drive: 11 plays, 71
    yards in 6:17. Key plays: Garcia
    15-yard pass to Hilliard to
    midfield; Garcia 15-yard pass to
    Hilliard to Caroli

    Sep 30 7:09 PM


  • NFL
    TD CAR
    DEANGELO WILLIAMS 24 YD PASS FROM DAVID CARR
    (JOHN KASAY KICK)
    TAMPA BAY 20
    CAROLINA 7 0:23 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Buccaneers vs. PanthersSep 30 7:06 PM


  • NFL
    FG TAM
    MATT BRYANT 38 YD
    TAMPA BAY 20
    CAROLINA 0 10:21 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Buccaneers vs. PanthersSep 30 6:35 PM


  • NFL
    END, 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    TAMPA BAY 14 3 0 17
    CAROLINA 0 0 0 0 END, 3RD QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: TAM - TD, JEFF GARCIA 3 YD RUN (MATT BRYANT
    KICK), 6:17. Drive: 11 plays, 71
    yards in 6:17. Key plays: Garcia
    15-yard pass to Hilliard to
    midfield; Garcia 15-yard pass to
    Hilliard to

    Sep 30 6:14 PM


  • NFL
    HALFTIME 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    TAMPA BAY 14 3 17
    CAROLINA 0 0 0 HALFTIME
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: TAM - TD, JEFF GARCIA 3 YD RUN (MATT BRYANT
    KICK), 6:17. Drive: 11 plays, 71
    yards in 6:17. Key plays: Garcia
    15-yard pass to Hilliard to
    midfield; Garcia 15-yard pass to
    Hilliard to Car

    Sep 30 5:29 PM


  • NFL
    FG TAM
    MATT BRYANT 25 YD
    TAMPA BAY 17
    CAROLINA 0 6:41 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Buccaneers vs. PanthersSep 30 5:15 PM


  • NFL
    END, 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    TAMPA BAY 14 14
    CAROLINA 0 0 END, 1ST QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: TAM - TD, JEFF GARCIA 3 YD RUN (MATT BRYANT
    KICK), 6:17. Drive: 11 plays, 71
    yards in 6:17. Key plays: Garcia
    15-yard pass to Hilliard to
    midfield; Garcia 15-yard pass to
    Hilliard to

    Sep 30 4:48 PM


  • NFL
    TD TAM
    EARNEST GRAHAM 1 YD RUN
    (MATT BRYANT KICK)
    TAMPA BAY 14
    CAROLINA 0 0:48 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Buccaneers vs. PanthersSep 30 4:43 PM


  • NFL
    TD TAM
    JEFF GARCIA 3 YD RUN
    (MATT BRYANT KICK)
    TAMPA BAY 7
    CAROLINA 0 8:43 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Buccaneers vs. PanthersSep 30 4:14 PM
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