Both the Bucs and the Panthers are 0-2. One team will emerge today with hope; the other deep in the hole. Here are a few things we'll be watching for during today's game:
- Early success for the Bucs' offense and defense;
- Keyshawn Johnson's performance;
- Chris Simms' performance.
Check back here during the game for updates.
So much for Thing 1, Thing 2 and Thing 3.
Panthers 7, Bucs 0
Chris Simms throws his seventh interception. Jake Delhomme finds Keyshawn on the Panthers' first play for the score.
Question: Jon Gruden made Rich Gannon the league's most valuable player in Oakland. He gave the Bucs an offense to complement the All-World defense and won a Super Bowl. So far today, an interception and three downs and punt twice. What must Gruden be thinking as he watches this offense?
Rudd awakening: Ryan Nece is hurt, so Shelton Quarles has moved to the outside and second-year LB Barrett Rudd is in the middle. The Panthers have had some success early up the middle. But not all of that is Rudd's job. The Bucs' defensive line is due to make some plays.
Panthers 10, Bucs 0
John Kasay hits a 51-yard field goal.
Recipe for disaster: Bucs fall behind, Cadillac Williams is essentially removed from the offense, the Panthers' pass rushers drool.
- Simms: 1-of-6 for 9 yards with the interception.
- Cadillac: 4 carries, 7 yards.
- Total offense: 11 plays, 6 yards.
- Keyshawn: 2 catches, 39 yards, touchdown.
How bad is it? Passes to Keyshawn and Steve Smith put the Panthers at the Tampa Bay 7-yard line. The Bucs defense calls timeout.
Panthers 17, Bucs 0
Keyshawn, hardly a speedy guy, runs a reverse for the touchdown. This is what crow tastes like.
Bronx cheer: Or the Tampa Bay version of it. Simms completes a pass and the crowd lets out a derisive roar.
Ditch the playbook: Cadillac pitches back to Simms, whose completion to Alex Smith puts the Bucs in Carolina's end of the field.
Pep in his step: Cadillac is running hard. Maybe forget the score, give the ball to the guy who wants it most.
And a Mike Alstott sighting: With Julius Peppers hanging off his wrist, the veteran fullback picks up a first down.
Panthers 17, Bucs 7
The running game makes the play fakes work. Simms lofts a beauty to Joey Galloway for the touchdown.
Mark down the time: at 7 minutes, 3 seconds of the Bucs' 10th quarter of the 2006 season, their first touchdown.
To the woodshed for Will Allen: The defense forces three and out, but Allen earns a 15-yard taunting penalty.
Panthers 20, Bucs 7
Field position kills Bucs. John Kasay, 6-for-6 on year, kicks a 50-yarder.
Lest we get carried away with the brief euphoria of a touchdown, the numbers still stink:
- Simms: 5-of-13, 47 yards, touchdown, interception;
- Cadillac: 8 carries, 23 yards;
- Total offense: 26 plays, 74 yards;
- Defensive line: 1 tackle, no sacks;
- Keyshawn: 4 catches, 66 yards, TD; 1 carry, 4 yards, TD;
- Steve Smith: 4 catches, 50 yards.
Splash play: That's what Gruden likes to call game-changing plays. Simeon Rice sacks Jake Delhomme, who fumbles. Bucs recover. Cadillac runs twice. Touchdown. Splash.
Panthers 20, Bucs 14
Tit for tat. This half, the Panthers turn over the ball on their first series and the Bucs cash in.
Simeon again: Rice strips DeShaun Foster. Bucs' ball at midfield. Splish-splash.
Bucs 21, Panthers 20
Chris Simms up and over on fourth down.
Panthers 23, Bucs 21
Kasay again from 50-plus yards.
Simms out, Gradkowski in: Simms goes down (cramp?), heads for the locker room. In comes Bruce Gradkowski.
Steve @##!&&!! Smith: His hamstrings are holding up. He has seven catches for 116 yards.
Simms is back: And he's throwing on the sidelines.
Fumble!!! Another sack for the Bucs defense and a Delhomme fumble.
Bucs 24, Panthers 23
It's up, it's good. Matt Bryant gives the Bucs the lead.
Time for a defensive stand: watch for runs up the gut and Steve Smith long.
Blitzing Brooks: For at least the third time, Derrick Brooks has disrupted something in the Carolina backfield. On a crucial third down, he bats down Delhomme's pass attempt.
Was that smart? On third-and-5, Chris Simms tries to bark the Panthers into an offsides penalty, then he uses a timeout. If the Bucs don't convert here, they may need the timeout.
Choices: Simms overthrows double-covered Galloway on deep ball. Michael Clayton was open short for first down.
Jake, that snake: Delhomme's drunken run on fourth down sets up Kasay's fourth field goal.
Panthers 26, Bucs 24