Panthers Dig Claws Into Bucs

For the Bucs, falling to 5-10, it was more of the same. Turnovers and penalties. After a week in which several Bucs spoke out about a lack of discipline, it was never more evident than in the loss. Quarterback Brian Griese threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. There were 10 penalties for 77 yards. All in all, it was a microcosm of a lost season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer coach Jon Gruden has finally heard the last boos of the 2004 home schedule rain down upon him after the Bucs left the field after another mistake-filled loss on Sunday.

The Bucs' playoff hopes were some miniscule that Albert Einstein himself couldn't figure out the mathematics that would be needed. They didn't matter after a numbing, 37-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers that officially ended the playoff hunt. The only thing left is a game for pride next Sunday at Arizona,

For the Bucs, falling to 5-10, it was more of the same. Turnovers and penalties. After a week in which several Bucs spoke out about a lack of discipline, it was never more evident than in the loss. Quarterback Brian Griese threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. There were 10 penalties for 77 yards. All in all, it was a microcosm of a lost season.

For the Bucs, falling to 5-10, it was more of the same. Turnovers and penalties. After a week in which several Bucs spoke out about a lack of discipline, it was never more evident than in the loss. Quarterback Brian Griese threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. There were 10 penalties for 77 yards. All in all, it was a microcosm of a lost season.

"I don't like the feeling of being knocked on my you-know-what,'' Gruden said. "I don't think our players do. Everybody tells me that I will learn from this experience. I realize there will be plenty of critics. Bring it on.''

About halfway through the fourth quarter, Raymond James Stadium had about 10,000 shivering fans remaining, most shouting expletives at anyone wearing pewter. Gruden has all but admitted that several local heroes wouldn't be back next season due to salary cap dictates as well as the need to overhaul the team. Mike Allstot, one old standby, was given warm applause by the remaining fans. Several others felt the love, but Gruden wasn't one of them.

Part of the Bucs problems was the complete lack of a running game. They ran it just eight times in the first three quarters, and Michael Pittman led the Bucs with just 41 yards, bringing about more players frustration in the locker room.

"We needed to run the ball,'' offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker said. "It was frustrating looking at the other side and them knowing that a pass was coming.''

Carolina jumped out early on a 15-yard scoring strike from Jake Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammad, but the Bucs responded quickly when Griese found Michael Clayton crossing the middle to tie the score.

Muhammad held serve, pulling in his second score, a 6-yard pass from Delhomme, and kicker John Kasay booted a 26-yard field goal to end the first half to make it 17-7. The Panthers looked like they had it wrapped up early in the third when Delhomme found Keary Colbert for a 4-yard pass, but the Bucs stayed alive when Griese found Clayton for his second touchdown of the day, giving the rookie five on the season.

After the teams traded touchdowns in, the Bucs took over deep in their own territory with 4:41 left in regulation, trailing 30-20. It was over on the next play when Griese threw it right at Carolina's Kindal Moorhead who scampered 17 yards for the score.

Gruden pulled Griese late in regulation for Chris Simms, but Simms just ran out the clock.

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