Tampa Bay improved to 9-4 on the season by defeating Carolina on Sunday, 20-10. By beating the Panthers, who are now 9-4 on the season, the Bucs moved into a first-place tie in the NFC South division. Tampa Bay owns a tie-breaker with Carolina because it currently has a better division record. The Bucs travel to New England to take on the 8-5 Patriots on Saturday. Both the Bucs and Panthers have three games remaining in the 2005 regular season.

Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant made his return from a hamstring injury suffered against the Chicago Bears. Bryant had returned to practice Thursday and made it through pre-game warm-ups in Carolina. Bryant was 2-of-2 on field goals and 2-of-2 on extra point attempts. He is now 17-of-20 (85 percent) on field goal tries this season.

Prior to game against the Carolina Panthers, the Buccaneers were 7-1 this season when scoring first. The Bucs jumped out to an early lead on a 16-yard touchdown run by running back Cadillac Williams in the first quarter. The Bucs led 10-0 at the half. With Williams’ second score of the game, the Bucs opened up a 17-point lead and never looked back. With the victory, Tampa Bay improved to 8-1 on the season when scoring first.

Rookie running back Cadillac Williams rushed his way into the Buccaneers record books on Sunday by becoming the first rookie ball carrier to rush for more than 900 yards since Warrick Dunn’s rookie season in 1997. The Buccaneers have had a futile running game in the past seven games against the Panthers, failing to reach the century mark in each one of those contests. However, Williams snapped that streak by rushing the ball 29 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns vs. the Panthers. The Bucs are 5-0 this season when Williams has rushed for more than 100 yards.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden challenged cornerback Ronde Barber prior to the New Orleans Saints game last week telling him to catch a ball. Barber responded by snagging three interceptions, tying his career high, against Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks. Early in the fourth quarter Sunday, Barber responded again picking off Panthers QB Jake Delhomme near the goal line for his fourth interception in two games. On the ensuing drive, the Bucs would chew up more than six minutes off the clock and seal the game with a rushing touchdown. With Carolina driving late in the fourth quarter, Barber picked up a sack on a zone blitz. Barber became the only defensive back in NFL history to record 20 interceptions and 20 sacks in his career. Barber now trails CB Donnie Abraham by three interceptions for first all-time as a Buccaneer.

Quarterback Chris Simms responded from a poor performance in the Bucs first meeting against Carolina this season by completing 20-of-27 (74 percent) passes for 133 yards. Simms did not have a touchdown in the game but did not throw an interception for the third consecutive contest. … Linebacker Shelton Quarles led the team with nine total tackles. … With their fifth road win, the Bucs are one win shy of matching the six road wins they tallied during the Super Bowl season in 2002. … Wide Receiver Ike Hilliard had a season-high five receptions for 32 yards with three catches resulting in drive-saving conversions. … Punter Josh Bidwill averaged 43.2 yards per punt and extended his punting streak of 50-plus yards to 14 straight games. He blasted a 58-yard punt in the first quarter. … Defensive tackle Anthony McFarland left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. He did not return. … Safety Will Allen returned after missing three games with a knee injury.

The following Bucs players were inactive for Sunday’s game vs. the Pantehrs: K Todd France, QB Tim Rattay, RB Derek Watson, LB Marquis Cooper, T Chris Colmer, DT Anthony Bryant, C Scott Jackson, CB Blue Adams

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