Tampa Bay finally found the defensive pressure up front it has sought all season during the Buccaneers' 20-7 win over Carolina on Sunday.
The Buccaneers finished with three sacks and five hurries of Panthers quarterback David Carr. More importantly, the Buccaneers' front four managed to put enough pressure on Carr to allow their linebackers and secondary to play a more traditional Cover 2.
The result? Carr, making his first start in Carolina, went 19-of-41 for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception. More importantly, Carr proved unable to utilize his greatest weapon, wide receiver Steve Smith. The veteran speedster, who entered the game with four straight 100-yard outings against the Buccaneers, caught just five passes for 32 yards.
The Buccaneers received sacks from some untraditional sources, too. End Patrick Chukwurah, making his first appearance of the season after missing six weeks to a knee injury, brought Carr down in the fourth quarter. Rookie tackle Greg Peterson came up with his second sack in as many games in the fourth quarter. Third-year tackle Jovan Haye came up with his second sack this season, as well.
First-year pro Greg White nearly made it four sacks early in the third quarter, but his tackle of Carr went for no gain.
Tampa Bay also forced the Panthers into three holding penalties by their offensive line, one of which brought back a Carr touchdown pass to Drew Carter in the game's final minute.
On the ground the Bucs held the Panthers to just 99 yards, led by DeShaun Foster's 64 yards. There was significance in Foster's 15 carries, as the Panthers lost for just the third time in 24 times that Foster reached 15 carries. Unable to get their ground game going, the Panthers held the ball just 25:20 in time of possession on Sunday.
The Buccaneers limited the Panthers to 236 yards on the game, and gave up only a meaningless touchdown pass from Carr to DeAngelo Williams with 23 seconds left. The Buccaneers had not allowed a touchdown since the fourth quarter of their 31-14 win over New Orleans two weeks ago.
MILESTONES: Tampa Bay's victory over Carolina had some significant milestones.
For starters, Tampa Bay beat Carolina for just the second time in nine meetings.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia beat Carolina for the fourth straight time as a starting quarterback.
Tampa Bay won on the road for just the second time in 11 chances.
NICHOLSON PLAYS: Third-year safety Donte Nicholson, whom the Bucs signed on Saturday, played on Sunday. The Bucs appeared to sign Nicholson to create depth in the secondary, as they declared starting right cornerback Brian Kelly inactive for the game.
BAD PEPPERS: Julius Peppers went without a sack for the fourth straight game this season. The former Pro Bowl end had only two tackles on the afternoon. The Buccaneers offensive line held the Panthers without a sack.
INJURIES, INACTIVES: Along with RB Carnell Williams, the Buccaneers lost LT Luke Petitgout to a right knee injury in the second quarter. He did not return, though he left the field under his own power.
Williams, who left the game after a frightening right knee sprain, will undergo further tests today.
The inactive players for Sunday's game were:
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.