Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Key moments in Tampa Bay's 28-21 loss to Carolina Panthers

USF outdraws Bucs

The Bucs announced a sellout crowd of 62,422 at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. But one glance at the stands told you the actual number of fans on hand was much fewer — nearly 20,000 fewer. The Tampa Sports Authority, which manages the stadium, said the actual attendance was 42,847, a shockingly low number even for a winless team. On Thursday night, then-No. 21 USF drew an actual crowd of 55,073 for its loss to then-No. 8 Cincinnati. The Bucs avoided a local television blackout for the game against the Panthers when they said Wednesday that all tickets would be sold. But team officials declined Sunday to discuss who had bought the tickets for all those empty seats or how they are meeting the NFL requirement to sell out their games 72 hours before kickoff. The news does not bode well for the remainder of the season. The Bucs have four home games left.

'Dirty' play leaves Smith speechless

Bucs return man Clifton Smith was left with a concussion and could barely talk after sustaining a blow near his head on an illegal hit from the Panthers' Dante Wesley. The eighth-year cornerback launched himself into Smith before he had a chance to field a punt late in the second quarter, hitting him in the throat with his forearm. Wesley was called for an interference penalty and a personal foul and was ejected by referee John Parry. But not before the move touched off a melee on the field. Bucs S Tanard Jackson called the hit "dirty." Others used language not fit for print. "It was a dumb play that was penalized," said Bucs coach Raheem Morris. "It was handled correctly. He threw a punch at Aqib (Talib); he got kicked out. It was a cheap shot. We know that." Talib and LB Adam Hayward had to be restrained by teammates and officials after Wesley's alleged punch in the ensuing skirmish. "I'm a wack job," Hayward said. "When I saw he was on the ground laid out like that, I went over there to get No. 21 (Wesley). I'm probably gonna get fined. But it's worth it. I'll eat that. You can't get away with that." Wesley probably won't. On top of his ejection, he can expect to be fined heavily, and a suspension will likely be considered by the NFL brass. "That's not even me," Wesley said afterward. "It just so happened I just hit him. My prayers go out (to) him. I would never try to hurt anyone. I was just trying to make a play. The first time we punted the ball, he tried to do like a fake fair catch and he caught it and ran anyway, and I was kind of slow reacting to it. … I was just trying to make a play."

Defense comes up big … sort of

The Bucs defense registered several game-changing plays, including two interceptions and a forced fumble that likely saved a touchdown.

The disappointing thing was they didn't come when they were most needed: On Carolina's winning drive, when the Panthers ran the ball at will.

The first turnover came when S Tanard Jackson forced a fumble from RB Jonathan Stewart at the Bucs 3, stripping the ball loose as Stewart barreled toward the end zone. DT Ryan Sims recovered, keeping the score 7-7 with 9:55 remaining in the second quarter.

With 14 seconds left in the third quarter and the Bucs trailing 21-14, LB Barrett Ruud intercepted QB Jake Delhomme when LB Quincy Black deflected the pass attempt. The drive got as close as the Panthers 36 before an illegal motion penalty on fourth and 1 forced the Bucs to punt. Then, with 8:33 left in the game, Jackson struck again when he intercepted Delhomme (who had LB Geno Hayes in his face) on a pass over the middle and returned it 26 yards for the tying touchdown.

"I was just free, and he stared the receiver down the whole way," Jackson said. "I was just able to read his eyes and make a play on the ball."

But given the way the defense ended the game, it was all for naught.

"You can make all the big plays and do all the right things, but when it's time to get the stop and give our offense a chance to get the ball back, we didn't do that," Jackson said.

Afterward, Ruud said, "I forgot about those big plays already. I'm thinking about that one drive."

Stroughter stands up

Rookie seventh-round pick Sammie Stroughter not only led the Bucs in receiving Sunday with three catches for 65 yards, but he also provided the biggest boost of the day under less-than-ideal circumstances. Asked to fill in for Clifton Smith after the return man was knocked out of the game by a vicious hit, Stroughter tied Smith's club record with a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown with 2:17 left in the third quarter.

Stroughter credited Adam Hayward, Brian Clark and Maurice Stovall with key blocks on the return, but he did plenty of work on his own, stepping out of attempted tackles by CB Richard Marshall and K Rhys Lloyd.

"I just remember (special teams) Coach Rich (Bisaccia) telling me you better not let the kicker catch you," Stroughter said. "I just kept hearing that repeating in my head." And he got other notable advice from WR Antonio Bryant: "Right before the kickoff, I went to Sammie Stroughter and told him, 'This is when playmakers make plays.' The guy plays with his heart."

After Adams, Day 1

The Bucs played their first game without DE Gaines Adams, who was traded to the Bears on Friday for a 2010 second-round pick. Stylez White, left, started at defensive end in his absence and had an impressive performance: one sack, two tackles for losses, eight tackles and two quarterback hits. GM Mark Dominik admitted he initiated the talks with Chicago.

"As a general manager, I think it's my responsibility to be in contact with all 31 other teams … to have an opportunity to find out what's going on," he said. "If you don't know that Braylon Edwards is (worth) a 3 and a 5, you're not doing your job. We'll call around to all the clubs and just talk about players, talk about what they have in terms of needs, talk about what we have that we think can help our football team. From there, we worked through the conversation with (Bears GM) Jerry Angelo to facilitate the trade."

Asked about Adams' time in Tampa, Dominik conceded it did not meet expectations.

"The bottom line is, you took a player with the fourth pick in the draft," he said. "It did not pan out the way you would hope it would. So, what you end up with is a second-round pick, and it'll be on the organization to make sure that pick matters."

As for White, he admits Adams' departure puts him under a spotlight. "My role obviously has changed, and I don't want to give it back. I feel like I have some type of weight on me, and I want to play well for team and myself. Even though we lost, I hope I did well enough to go back out there and prove myself. I can only do what they ask me to do."

Key moments in Tampa Bay's 28-21 loss to Carolina Panthers 10/18/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 19, 2009 9:55am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium


    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  2. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem


    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  3. Matt Peca making case for Lightning spot


    Center Matt Peca said he didn't read too much into the fact he was the only Lightning player to appear in each of the first three exhibition games.

    But Peca, 24, loved it.

    Matt Peca won nine of 10 faceoffs Friday, a skill the Lightning badly needs.
  4. Bucs players respond to Trump comments on anthem protests


    President Donald Trump shared his thoughts Friday night on NFL players protesting during the national anthem, suggesting that NFL owners should "fire" players who kneel during the anthem in protest. His remarks are alreading drawing responses from many NFL players, including some Bucs.

    Bucs players Mike Evans and Jameis Winston stand with coach Dirk Koetter during the national anthem in a game played in San Diego last season.
  5. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    Catcher Wilson Ramos connects for a two-run single in the fifth inning against the Cubs on Sept. 20, 2017.