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Publisher Scott Reynolds "The Buccaneers reinstituted their pat down policy this week at Raymond James Stadium with permission of the courts. This made for incredibly long lines – understandably so – to enter the stadium. Buccaneers fans like to tailgate and they are used to traditionally packing the stadium just mere minutes before kickoff. But on Sunday, several thousand fans either forgot about the pat downs or were ignorant to the fact that there would be longer lines due to the time necessary to enter the stadium after getting patted down by security personnel. The stadium was not full at kickoff – probably only two-thirds full – due to the late-arriving Bucs fans and that was disappointing to see. For future home games, it is best for Tampa Bay fans to cut the tailgating short 30 minutes shorter than usual to account for the pat downs. Not only are those fans missing the first quarter of a game they paid good money to attend, but they are also not helping out the Bucs with their absence. The noise a couple more thousand Tampa Bay fans can generate only makes the stadium louder and work in the Bucs' favor. The stadium was not completely full until after Hayes scored Tampa Bay's first touchdown."
"The loss of fullback Byron Storer to a knee injury in the first quarter was significant because it forced halfback Earnest Graham into playing the role of lead blocker for the remainder of the game. Graham still got a few carries, but it affected the dynamics of the Bucs' run game and made Warrick Dunn the lead ballcarrier by default – whether Jon Gruden wanted him assume that role or not. To Graham's credit, he did a great job, helping to spring Dunn for gains of 17 and 20 finish with 115 yards on 22 carries (5.2 avg.). After the game, Gruden praised Graham's unselfishness, and rightly so. Gruden is a huge Graham fan and made sure that those listening to his press conference knew how much he respected his performance against Carolina. A nice, finishing gesture was Gruden giving Graham a touchdown out of the fullback position in the fourth quarter."
"Not only did Tampa Bay's defense play well and create some turnovers off deflected passes, but perhaps more importantly the defense produced two three-and-outs in the first half and two in the second half. That kept the Panthers offense from ever really getting into an offensive rhythm and establishing some continuity and confidence on that side of the ball. In addition to the turnovers, the Bucs defense stopped the Panthers on fourth down twice in the fourth quarter. Overall, a great showing by Tampa Bay."
"Tampa Bay's mastery of the first and fourth quarters continued on Sunday against Carolina. Entering the game leading opponents 24-20 in the first quarter, the Bucs led the Panthers 14-0 and now have outscored their foes 38-20 in the opening quarter. In the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay had a 41-27 lead entering Sunday's game and now have outscored opponents 48-27 in that quarter after today. Things were even going the Bucs' way in the third quarter on Sunday. Through five games, the Bucs have come out flat in the third, being outscored 35-10. Against Carolina, Tampa Bay outscored the Panthers 3-0 in third quarter. Speaking of scoring, the Bucs have put up at least 20 points in five of their six games this year after notching 27 against Carolina. The lone exception was last week at Denver when the team scored only 13. Through six games in 2008, Tampa Bay is averaging 23.5 points per game after averaging only 20.8 last year."
"The unsung hero of Sunday's game was left tackle Donald Penn, who held defensive end Julius Peppers to just five tackles and no sacks after Penn struggled in Denver. Peppers came into the game with three sacks through the first five games, but only got close to quarterback Jeff Garcia once. In fact, Tampa Bay's offensive line did not allow a sack for the third time this year. Props also go to right tackle Jeremy Trueblood for not getting flagged on Sunday after drawing a false start and a holding penalty in Denver last week."
"Yes, the Buccaneers didn't need their wide receivers against Carolina due to the great play from their tight ends and running backs. But there will be a key game or two down the stretch where they will need the receivers to step up this year and deliver in the passing game, similar to what they did at Chicago. I don't know about you, but I would feel better if Detroit's Roy Williams was in that group of wide receivers alongside a healthy Joey Galloway. The Bucs built their offense around the running game of Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn this year with the trio of tight ends – Alex Smith, Jerramy Stevens and John Gilmore – playing significant roles in both the running game and the passing game. But Tampa Bay could use more firepower and big-play ability, and picking up a receiver like Williams before Tuesday's trade deadline could not only help the offense this year, but also in 2009 and beyond. Yet with a 4-2 record, expect an overconfident Bucs front office to not pull the trigger on a trade because it feels comfortable with its current group of average receivers. That would be a mistake."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn "If you would have told me that Tampa Bay's defense was going to have three interceptions and the Bucs were going to block a punt and return it for a touchdown, my prediction for Sunday's game would have been different (stupid me for picking the Bucs to lose to the Panthers). Give the Bucs credit for rebounding from a tough loss in Denver with a convincing win over the Panthers, who had won five straight at Raymond James Stadium heading into this game. Tampa Bay's defense simply suffocated Carolina's offense today, holding the Panthers to just 282 yards. While they had three key interceptions, the Bucs defense could have easily had seven picks if it weren't for dropped passes by defensive end Gaines Adams, linebackers Derrick Brooks and Barrett Ruud, and cornerback Ronde Barber. That's nitpicking, though, as Tampa Bay's defense was awesome on Sunday."
"The Bucs offense played better than expected, generating 315 yards and converting 46 percent of their third down opportunities behind quarterback Jeff Garcia, who returned to action due to Brian Griese's injury. Head coach Jon Gruden made the right decision to bench Garcia after Week 1 and play Griese. He needs to make the right decision again by keeping Garcia, who showed signs of the Pro Bowl player he was last year, in the starting lineup. Tampa Bay's offense needs to find a way to sustain and finish off its own drives that end with touchdowns, not field goals. Tampa Bay scored two offensive touchdowns vs. Carolina, and the drives went 26 and 52 yards, respectively. If the Bucs can figure out how to do that, this unit, which has Jeff Garcia back and wide receiver Joey Galloway on the way, could be in very good shape for the second half of the season."
"While the Bucs might have whiffed on their 2008 second-round selection, Dexter Jackson, they certainly deserve credit for hitting on their third-round pick, guard Jeremy Zuttah. The rookie out of Rutgers filled in admirably for right guard Davin Joseph for the first four games of the season. Joseph returned to the lineup vs. Denver last week, but Zuttah saw action again vs. the Panthers after left guard Arron Sears injured his knee in the first quarter. With Zuttah in the lineup, the Bucs rushed for 142 yards on 37 carries (3.8 avg.) and one touchdown, and did not allow a sack. That's impressive."
Beat Writer Charlie Campbell "Entering Sunday's game with the Panthers, the Bucs had not beaten Carolina at home since the 2002 season. Since 2002, Tampa Bay was 2-8 against the Panthers and both wins came in Carolina. Those wins came in the 2005 and 2007 seasons, when the Buccaneers ran the ball heavily. This win against Carolina relied on the running game to close the victory for Tampa Bay. In snapping the home losing streak to the Panthers, the Buccaneers did it will all three phases. The special teams got Tampa Bay started with Geno Hayes' blocked punt returned for a touchdown. The defense intercepted three passes, and could have intercepted three or four more passes as they totaled 10 passes defensed in the game. The offense moved the ball enough to produce 20 points, and the running game took over with 24 carries in the second half to deny the Panthers enough possessions to get back into the game. Over the past five seasons, Bucs fans have sat in the seats at Raymond James Stadium and seen some infamous moments for Tampa Bay against the Panthers. In 2003, Martin Grammatica's blocked extra point, Steve Smith burning the Bucs deep in 2004 and 2005, Chris Simms playing valiantly in a losing effort in 2006 where he lost his spleen, and last season when the Bucs could have swept Carolina and gone 6-0 for the first-time in division history, but Tampa Bay's backups fell short against the Panthers' starters. After years of frustrating losses against the Panthers at home, it was a nice sight for Buccaneers fans to see Carolina get spanked on the Bucs home turf."
"In the latest PI Quick Hits, the offensive philosophy of the Buccaneers becoming a heavily running team was put forth. Looking at the final stat sheet would indicate that the Bucs were possibly going that route. They ended the game with the Panthers having run the ball 37 times against 20 passes, pretty close to a 2:1 ratio. While the final numbers look pretty good to Tampa Bay riding the strength of the team, in the first half the Bucs ran the ball only nine times against 17 passes. In the second half the Buccaneers only threw three passes as they ran out the clock. The game against Carolina provided more proof that Tampa Bay should be an offense that runs much more than it passes. The Buccaneers wide receivers only totaled four receptions for less than 50 yards. The tight ends and running backs provided the longest receptions for the Bucs in the game. It is obvious through six games that Pewter Report was right back in training camp when it was said that the Bucs are built to run. The offensive line is on their way to being perhaps the best offensive line in Bucs history. Running back Earnest Graham is complete back that is a workhorse and a playmaker. Warrick Dunn has shown he has plenty left in the tank. The tight ends are excelling in their run blocking. The quarterback play and production from the wide receivers has been the part of the offense that has been inconsistent from game-to-game. The Buccaneers have the makings of one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, and that should be what they ride down the stretch and into the playoffs."
"In the Pewter Pre-Game Show, the matchup of the Bucs defensive line against Carolina's offensive line was predicted to be a critical one for Tampa Bay. The Bucs were up to the challenge and put on a clinic of gap control football. The Panthers were said to have the best running back tandem (Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams) that the Bucs have faced this season, and the defensive line held them to 39 yards on 17 carries. The Buccaneers had a mismatch to take advantage of on Carolina's offensive line. Starting in place of right Jeff Otah was Jeremy Bridges. Bucs defensive ends Kevin Carter, Greg White, and Gaines Adams all line up at left defensive end at various points in the game. The ends did a good job along with the entire group across the defensive line. Carter had a great game stuffing the run, and Bridges had no success pushing Carter off the line of scrimmage. Carter looks better this season than he did for Tampa Bay last year, and he credited a calmer offseason with allowing him to be better prepared for the season. While the line did not record any sacks, they applied enough pressure and harassment on Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme to never let him get in a rhythm. The nemesis of many past wins against Tampa Bay could never get comfortable and was lucky that he only threw three interceptions. The Bucs easily could have recorded a sack though. In the second quarter, Adams got good pressure on Delhomme in the Panthers end zone. Adams along with others were appeared to be held. Carolina was called for holding, but penalties on the Bucs offset what would have been a safety. The Buccaneers are going to go up against some good rushing teams and running backs down the stretch of the season, if they maintain their present level of play they should pose no problem to the Bucs defense."
"The win against Carolina should breed confidence in the Bucs coaches from the players. There were some players that questioned the offense's play calling after the loss to Denver last week. This week, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden called a much better game and took advantage of some weaknesses in the Panthers defense. The Bucs also featured a lot of different looks defensively. That played a big role in the Carolina turnovers, and the Panthers having less than 300 yards of total offense. Tampa Bay's coaches clearly out-schemed the Carolina staff, and the Bucs took advantage of those mismatches on offense, defense, and special teams. A dominating performance based off a dominant game plans leads to a team that believes and trusts their coaches more, and plays with a confident swagger on the field."