Bucs 20, Panthers 7, Final

Did you miss Tampa Bay's victory over Carolina? Get caught up with my in-game blog, which is now complete. And don't forget to come by the Bucsblitz.com chat room at 10 p.m. Sunday to chat about the game.

Signing off, 6:48 p.m.

Carolina is about to punt with 4:50 left, all but ending this game.

I'm signing off now. Look to Bucsblitz.com for postgame coverage, including our Bucsblitz.com chat at 10 p.m. tonight about the game. I'll also have a game story, a notebook, a game summary and photo galleries from today's game.

Hope to see you in the chat room tonight.

Phillips INT, 6:29 p.m.

Bucs safety Jermaine Phillips just picked off his second pass in as many games with 11:51 left to play in the game.

The entries will get more sporadic as I work on post-game material. The Bucs appear to have this one wrapped up.

Bucs take first penalty, 6:23 p.m.

The Bucs take a delay of game penalty with 12:49 left to give Josh Bidwell more room to try and pin the Panthers. It's their first penalty of the game.

The Panthers have the ball deep in their own territory.

Bucs fails to punch it in, 6:10 p.m.

Tampa Bay went for it on 4th-and-goal at the 1. They did not get it, as Earnest Graham was stopped short.

I like the call, even though it didn't work. There's still enough time in this game for Carolina to make a comeback (1:10 left in the third quarter). But I don't see it happening. This Panthers offense has done nothing. Still, coming away with no points after the Panthers turnover has to be a bit disconcerting for head coach Jon Gruden.

Correction, 6:03 p.m.

That was Tanard Jackson on the forced fumble. Ruud was right in the area, so it was easy to get confused. But Jackson came in from the blind side and knocked the ball out. It's the first forced turnover of the rookie's NFL career.

And this Panthers team is as limp as a wet noodle.

Bucs force turnover, 6:02 p.m.

LB Barrett Ruud continues to play above his head, forcing a fumble from Panthers RB DeShaun Foster with 6:51 left in the third. Rookie Greg Peterson recovered the fumble for the Bucs, who now have great field position in Panthers territory and can put this game away.

Ruud has now forced a turnover in every game so far this season. Perhaps it's time to start talking about a Pro Bowl berth for Mr. Ruud? His play so far has been outstanding.

Bucs punt, 5:58 p.m.

The Bucs get into Panthers territory, thanks to a big run by Michael Pittman, but the Panthers force a punt. Josh Bidwell's punt is a touchback and the Panthers have it at their own 20 with 7:14 left in the third.

This offensive line for Tampa Bay, even without Luke Petitgout, is pounding away at the Carolina front seven. I'm sensing that this unit, despite its youth, is really starting to come together. The Panthers have 299 yards of total offense and it's only midway through the third quarter (the Panthers have 112 yards) Donald Penn has done a serviceable job in Petitgout's place, but I don't think he's a guy the Bucs want to do without for a long period of time.

Can the Panthers get anything going?

Without Williams, 5:53 p.m.

One thing I'll be taking a close look at after this game is the run-pass distribution of the Bucs without Carnell Williams. Michael Pittman just ran off a big run down the sideline, something he's capable of. But he's not capable of carrying the ball 20 times a game like Williams is. Neither is Earnest Graham.

Still, the combination of Pittman and Graham is producing. Graham just caught a pass in the flat for a nice gain.

Bucs have ball, 5:51 p.m.

Carolina put together probably their best drive of the game to start the second half — but it still ended with a punt. The Bucs are now trying to drive out of their own end zone.

Tampa Bay really ought to win this game, as long as they don't start making critical mistakes.

Panthers fail to score in first half, 5:27 p.m.

Carolina seemed to get something going there before the holding penalty set the drive back in their territory. There were boos after the Panthers called a running play on 2nd-and-20 from about the Panthers 45. The drive sputtered.

The Bucs don't have a sack today, but it doesn't seem to matter as the Panthers offense has no consistency today. The Bucs are likely going to pitch a shutout in the first half.

Petitgout out, 5:17 p.m.

Left tackle Luke Petitgout is out for the game with a right knee sprain.

Carnell Williams will undergo more tests on Monday. There is concern that there's ligament damage as well as a sprain.

Judging from the amount of pain on Williams' face, I think there's a feeling that Williams won't be back this season.

Bucs take 17-0 lead, 5:16 p.m.

The Bucs get down the field, but the Panthers limit the Bucs to a Matt Bryant field goal. The Bucs missed an opportunity to make it a three-touchdown game. Bucs are up 17-0 with 6:41 remaining before halftime.

Another example of Jeff Garcia's craftiness. He checked out of a play and into a route that sent Ike Hilliard up the middle and turned it into a 56-yard gain. Hilliard is now over 100 yards receiving.

The Bucs are just killing the Panthers down the middle.

Donald Penn was in for Luke Petitgout for the entire possession.

Panthers punt, 5:09 p.m.

The Bucs dodge a bullet, as Drew Carter barely dropped a third-down pass deep leading to a Panthers punt. The Panthers receivers have dropped too many passes today.

But there's some life in the Panthers now.

David Carr leapt over a defender for a first down on 3rd-and-10. No, he didn't leap — he FLEW! Great play by Carr. The last time I saw a quarterback fly that high was Randall Cunningham.

Steve Smith dropped a pass on a flea-flicker, as it appeared Cato June distracted him just enough to have him drop it.

The Panthers commit a penalty on Bucs returner Mark Jones on the punt, as Richard Marshall hits Jones after Jones — admittedly late — signaled for a fair catch. The penalty is fair catch interference and it's a 15-yard penalty. The Bucs have the ball near midfield with 9:20 left. Will Luke Petitgout be back?

There's your turning point?, 5:02 p.m.

Ike Hilliard fumbles, as he's stripped by Chris Gamble of the Panthers, forcing the first turnover of the game.

That's a pretty big turn of events. The Bucs were in Panthers territory and on their way to a 21-0 lead. Now, the Bucs are only up 14, the Panthers have some momentum and Luke Petitgout may or may not be back. The Panthers have the ball with 11:46 left in the second quarter.

This could be a big turning point in this game.

Another Bucs injury, 5 p.m.

Now it starts.

Bucs left tackle Luke Petitgout is on the ground and they're looking at his right knee and leg. This comes on the heels of Carnell Williams' knee injury. It looks possibly serious. He's walking off, though.

With Anthony Davis inactive, that brings Donald Penn in to replace Petitgout. That's three second-year linemen and a rookie up front now.

Williams' condition, 4:52 p.m.

They're taking X-rays on the knee and the official word for Carnell Williams is a right knee sprain.

If that's a sprain, that's awfully lucky.

Panthers not moving ball, 4:48 p.m.

As we enter the second quarter the Panthers have less than 30 yards in total offense. It's obvious this offense is lost without Jake Delhomme — at least right now.

Bucs make it 14-0, 4:45 p.m.

How did the Bucs react to Carnell Williams' injury? A touchdown.

Earnest Graham came in and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with :48 seconds left in the first quarter. It appears the injury perhaps galvanized this team. If you're watching the game, you saw the touching display of all of the Bucs coming over to the Carolina side of the field to wish Williams well. They did the same thing when Paris Warren's season ended in the final preseason game.

The first play after the injury was a pass to B.J. Askew up the middle for a first down. The Bucs are going to make a living in the middle all day, and I don't think the Panthers have the personnel to stop them.

This is going to be serious, 4:40 p.m.

If you're watching the game, you can see the pain that Carnell Williams is in right now. This is more than a hyperextension. This could be the end of his season. Let's hope it's not.

Williams is hurt, 4:37 p.m.

Carnell Williams just broke off his biggest run of the season and then lost his footing as he braced for a hit and appeared to hyperextend his right knee, at the very least. He was wincing in pain and holding the knee as FOX went to commercial.

Get ready to see a lot of Michael Pittman and Earnest Graham.

Panthers punt, Bucs have good field position, 4:35 p.m.

Carolina gets a first down, but the Panthers are forced to punt. Bucs returner Mark Jones gets the Bucs into Panthers territory with 3:13 left in the first.

I'm impressed with how this Bucs defense is tackling this year. There's much more gang-tackling and less one-on-one attempts this year. I think the speed of LBs Barrett Ruud and Cato June — who weren't starters last year — have had something to do with that.

Thank the umpire for helping to bring DeShaun Foster down on an inside run for a first down. Otherwise he might have gotten a lot more.

Carolina started the drive on their own 4 after the great punt coverage by the Bucs.

Bucs second drive ends in punt, 4:29 p.m.

The Bucs steal a first down on an offsides call by Carolina's Kris Jenkins, but the drive sputters and the Bucs must punt.

Josh Bidwell's punt is batted down by Maurice Stovall and Patrick Chukwurah downed it inside the 5. Great coverage by the Bucs with 6:02 left in the first.

The Bucs should stop throwing to Carnell Williams. He had his second drop in as many receiving attempts on the first play of the drive. He is running the ball well, though. The Bucs haven't opened up these kinds of creases this early in a game all season.

Carolina DE Julius Peppers is getting some assistance from the Panthers medical staff. Something isn't right with him. His play just isn't up to his standards — and those are high standards. He returned a few plays later.

Panthers first drive ends with punt, 4:20 p.m.

The Panthers go three-and-out on their first drive. David Carr, the Panthers starting QB, went deep on the first play but overthrew Steve Smith.

By the way, it appears there's a chance that Jake Delhomme may need surgery for that injured elbow.

The Bucs have the ball at their own 37 with 7:49 left in the first.

Bucs first drive ends in TD, 4:15 p.m.

What a great first drive by the Buccaneers, as quarterback Jeff Garcia took it in himself for a touchdown.

That was a broken play, as fullback B.J. Askew was clipped, but was still open. Garcia used him as a decoy and ran it in himself.

The Bucs did a great job of dictating pace on this drive, putting the Panthers on the defensive. And, as I expected, the Panthers generated very little in the way of a pass rush. This drive could set the tone for the whole game.

Julius Peppers got off to an interesting start — a back side tackle of Carnell Williams and an offsides call.

Williams dropped a pass in the flat right after the penalty. He had room to get a solid gain, too.

The Bucs went with their normal starting lineup on offense. That included Ike Hilliard at wide receiver, who had a big third-down catch deep in Panthers territory to put the Bucs in the red zone.

For Carolina, James Anderson is starting at middle linebacker. That's good news if the Bucs want to work the middle of the field. Plus, rookie Jon Beason is on the weak side.

Bucs will receive, 4:04 p.m.

Perhaps Tampa Bay wants to set the tone for the game by going on offense first. The Bucs won the toss and elected to receive.

Nicholson and Kelly, 4 p.m.

Obviously the Buccaneers knew Brian Kelly wouldn't play today because they signed Donte Nicholson, a safety, to shore up depth at that position.

That could make the matchup between the Bucs secondary and Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith a little more interesting. Smith has four straight 100-yard rushing games against the Bucs.

Inactives, 3:35 p.m.

Here are the inactive players for today's game in Carolina:

Carolina: QB Jake Delhomme (third quarterback), TE Marcus Freeman, DE Otis Grigsby, DE Charles Johnson, G Evan Mathis, LB Dan Morgan, LB Adam Seward.

Tampa Bay: G Dan Buenning, T Anthony Davis, LB Adam Hayward, DB Brian Kelly, QB Luke McCown (third quarterback), QB Chris Simms, DT Ryan Sims, LB Jeremiah Trotter.

Hayward and Kelly are surprise inactives for Tampa Bay. Hayward was never on the injury report. Kelly had practiced all week, so there must be a problem with that groin again. For Carolina, making Seward inactive further saps the Panthers' linebacker depth.

Random thoughts, 3:27 p.m.

I'm not in Carolina today. Financial constraints. Otherwise, I would be. But I've been watching the 1 p.m. games and here's what I've come away with:

The Cowboys are just plain good (and I'm not saying that because I'm sitting here in my Tony Romo jersey). They're dismantling every team they face right now. They're up 35-7 on the Rams. The only thing I'd be worried about right now is if this team is peaking too soon.

I'm already regretting my decision to start Jon Kitna over Eli Manning in LSFL. Kitna has nothing through three quarters. The Bears have no Charles Tillman, no Nathan Vasher and no Lance Briggs and the Lions have three points? What!? I'm gonna watch Eli go crazy tonight, and then cry myself to sleep.

The Falcons are going to be one of those teams that gives every opponent a good game. The Bucs might with they had the Falcons early by the time they get to their November meeting. They're up on the Texans right now.

The Ravens aren't going anywhere. Neither are the Browns. But the fact that Cleveland is up 13 going into the fourth quarter is a sign that the Ravens are nothing more than a .500 team — with no quarterback of the future.

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