TAMPA — Antonio Bryant saved his best for last, a one-handed catch of a 15-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter Monday night at Carolina.
It was Bryant's ninth and final catch, giving him a career-high 200 yards receiving, second most in team history behind Mark Carrier's 212 on Dec. 6, 1987.
In many ways, the play also illustrated why 37-year-old Joey Galloway can't get on the field.
Galloway and backup QB Luke McCown were the only two Bucs who did not see a snap in the 38-23 loss.
Coach Jon Gruden says Bryant and Galloway both play split end, and the choice is clear.
"Antonio is the reason," Gruden said. "They play the same position. Right now, that's just the way it is. It's unfortunate. Michael Clayton is our flanker and Joey is a split end and so is Antonio. … Hopefully you are not holding that against me for playing Antonio Bryant. …
"Joey is not the kind of guy right now in my opinion that is comfortable coming off the bench and playing 18-20 plays a game. He's a guy that functions better when he's playing (every down). Being a third receiver, being a guy that comes in and plays (in situations) — it's not for everybody. It's hard. It's frustrating for me. We tried to mix it up early in the season with Antonio at flanker. That's obviously not his best position. It's obviously not Joey's best position.
"We have two guys that play the same position. It's unfortunate, but it's reality."
Bryant leads the Bucs with 66 catches for 936 yards (14.2 average) and five touchdowns. Galloway, who has three straight 1,000-yard seasons, missed the end of 2007 with a shoulder injury and all of training camp and the preseason with a groin strain. He broke his foot in Week 2 against the Falcons and missed five games. In the past four, he does not have a reception. He has 12 receptions for 134 yards this season.
"We're going to play our best players, okay?" Gruden said. "Joey's had a lot go on this year with his injuries. He's missed an awful lot of time. When you play on the strong side there are a lot of things that are different than when you are on the weak side. I'll just go back and say that we've missed him for a long time and we've kind of moved on a little bit.
"We're going to play our best guys and right now, that's what we're doing."
Bryant, meanwhile, has done his part to make the Bucs forget about Galloway.
"Unbelievable," Gruden said. ''A couple of the routes that he did run, specialty plays that we put in the game plan, first time we've run them in a game. He ran them like he's ran them all season. He's running all the routes, he's making all kinds of catches, he's got tremendous stamina and what a performance he put out there (Monday) night. It's too bad it wasn't in a winning cause."
INJURIES: DT Chris Hovan has a knee injury and is questionable against the Falcons on Sunday. G Jeremy Zuttah injured his ankle against the Panthers. C Jeff Faine has an undisclosed injury, according to Gruden.