Panthers run all over Bucs

It the tackling, stupid. I don't recall the Bucs' vaunted D looking this bad at putting opponents on the ground for quite some time, certainly at no time during 2008. Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Jermaine Phillips and, especially, Tanard Jackson, all got embarrassed in prime time by MNF's multiple camera angles and super-slo-mo. Panthers running backs DeAngelo Williams (186 yards) and Jonathan Stewart (115) were only the second and third ball carriers to gain a hundred yards against the Bucs all season. For good measure, they each scored two touchdowns. Up to that point, the Bucs had given up one rushing TD all season.

The tipping point: The Panthers went ahead 24-17 early in the 4th quarter, and the Bucs D was starting to look gassed. The offense stalled, gave it back to Carolina. Eight and a half minutes left. Gut check time. This is where Brooks and co. step up and set things right. Uh, wrong. Carolina, starting from their own 10, scored in four plays, including runs of 41, 30 and 16 yards (for the score). Game over.

Bucs coach Jon Gruden wasted a challenge early in the game on an obvious catch by the Panthers' Steve Smith. Then, in the second quarter, after a long pass from QB Jeff Garcia to Antonio Bryant, the referees marked it at the Carolina 2 yard line. Replays showed that it should've been placed at the one-half yard line. But Gruden had no challenges left. The Bucs couldn't punch it in the end zone, and had to settle for a field goal. I'm willing to wager they would've scored a TD from the .5 yard line.

Bryant, who was out of the league last season and deemed a head case, had a huge game that will only be a footnote in a bad Bucs loss. He had nine catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He had already redeemed himself this season, but this performance put the cherry on top. The Bucs under Gruden have been active in giving cast-offs and problem children an extra chance. Bryant is probably the biggest success story of the bunch.

I think the Bucs are as good today as they were on Monday morning, which is to say, playoff, but not Super Bowl, material. The team got taken out to the woodshed and ass-whupped. It happens. I don't think the Bucs started the game flat. It just seemed as if the Panthers were loaded for bear, really had something to prove, and once their running game got steamrolling, the Bucs became helpless. The Atlanta Falcons, Sunday's opponent, are probably scheming their power running game right now. But I don't expect the Bucs D to get trampled in Atlanta like they did last night.

Talk about getting exposed. This was worse than one of those dreams where you find yourself in public in your underwear. (What, you never had one of those dreams?) The Bucs must've spent a lot of time in the post-game locker room examining the cleat marks all over their bodies, courtesy of the Panthers rushing attack that rang up 299 yards in last night's game, which the Bucs lost convincingly 38-23.

Here are some random observations on the disaster that was the Bucs' only appearance this season on Monday Night Football:

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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