Gamble came up with two interceptions of Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms twice on Sunday, including one he returned 61 yards for a touchdown to break the game open in the third quarter en route to Carolina's 34-14 win. The Panthers remained in a tie for first place with Atlanta at 6-2.
It was Gamble's first NFL touchdown and his first score since 2002 when he helped Ohio State defeat Penn State 10-7 in a crucial game in Columbus, Ohio, during the Buckeyes run to the national championship.
"It feels good to make some plays back there," said Gamble. "I gave up some big plays earlier this year, but I'm going to try to come back the second half of the season and make plays and have fun."
Gamble, playing on a bad ankle, had a rough game against the Cardinals on Oct. 9, and was benched to start the second half after giving up several big plays to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. He sat out the next week against Detroit and then got additional rest with the bye week.
He also struggled in Week 3 against the Miami Dolphins, who successfully attacked Gamble with Chris Chambers. Gamble said he's now 100 percent healthy.
He said he's benefited from spending more time in the film room.
That's how he picked up on the route Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton ran in the third quarter on Sunday. When Gamble saw Simms look his way, he broke on the ball and jumped the route.
"I knew he was going to run the out," he said. "I knew it was coming. I had watched a lot of film and I anticipated that play was coming."
Said Simms: "He just drove on the ball, it was a really good gamble."
With the two picks, Gamble took over the team lead in interceptions with three.
--Mike Rucker's big sack and forced fumble on Simms came at the expense of former Panthers offensive tackle Todd Steussie. Steussie entered the game after Tampa Bay's starting right tackle Anthony Davis. went down with a knee injury in the first half.
"I went against Todd in practice for years and I kind of knew him. I was just fortunate enough to throw a move on him that worked," Rucker said.
--Steve Smith celebrated his ninth touchdown of the season with a nifty little swashbuckling sword-fighting move in the end zone, using the football as his pretend sword. It was a nice angle considering the opponent.
--Panthers right tackle Jordan Gross came into the game without having allowed a sack or been flagged for a penalty this season. But Gross gave up a sack and was flagged for a false start in the first half of Sunday's game. Still, Gross did have a decent game overall.
But Carolina's other offensive tackle, Travelle Wharton, did a fabulous job holding Simeon Rice without a sack and no tackles.
In his previous six regular season games against the Panthers, Rice has eight sacks. Last year he had seven tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in two games against the Panthers.
--Everything seemed to go Carolina's way on Sunday. Even Panthers running back DeShaun Foster got away with a fumble when it rolled out of bounds in the second half. Foster, who came in averaging 4.5 yards per carry, was held to 23 yards on 16 carries.
--We're not sure if Simms suffered a concussion during the game, but he did make this nonsensical statement when asked about the play of the Bucs offensive line, which gave up five sacks to Carolina.
"I thought our offensive line pass protected really well. I really did," Simms said. "I felt like I had good lines to throw the ball. Like I said, when you are down 24-7 and they know we're not going to be running the ball a whole lot, they can tee off and get some cheap ones, I guess."
--Defensive tackle Brentson Buckner broke his silence, speaking to the media for the first time in several weeks after Carolina's big win when asked by a reporter if the Panthers won't be able to fly under the radar anymore after their dominating 34-14 win over the Bucs.
"All I know is we don't want roving reporters outside of the field every day," Buckner said. "We don't want national cameras there every day and people talking about the Panthers. We just want to play football and let the people write what they want to write and report what they want to report. We don't worry about radars."
When an anonymous teammate was asked about Buckner talking to the media again, he said, "I can't believe he lasted this long. But when the dam broke, it broke. Now it's like a flood."
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--DE Mike Rucker is quietly posting a Pro Bowl-type season for the Panthers with six sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery this season. Rucker has been to one Pro Bowl, in 2003 when Eagles coach Andy Reid selected him as the NFC's "needs" player.
--QB Jake Delhomme has been stellar since returning from a head injury he suffered against Detroit. Delhomme has led the Panthers to two blowout wins and has eliminated his mistakes after throwing eight picks in his first six games, three of which were returned for touchdowns.
--RB Stephen Davis is still struggling to break big runs, but he continues to find the end zone, scoring twice more on Sunday against the Bucs to give him 11 for the season.
--CB Ken Lucas may not show up on the highlight reel much for the Panthers, but he's continued to prove he's a legit shutdown corner in Carolina's defense.
--FS Mike Minter was beaten for a 50-yard touchdown pass by Joey Galloway on Sunday. Minter might miss some practice this week with a quad bruise.
--TE Kris Mangum has a knee sprain and will be listed as day-to-day this week, head coach John Fox said Monday.
--WR Keary Colbert had just one catch on Sunday and continues to be a non-factor in Carolina's offense.
--LT Travelle Wharton was outstanding against Simeon Rice on Sunday, holding him without any sacks or tackles. Rice came into the game with eight sacks against the Panthers in his previous six games vs. his division rival. Wharton did come away with an ankle injury and will be listed as day-to-day this week.
--KR Rod Smart has an ankle injury and will be day-to-day this week.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. BUCS:
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Jake Delhomme only needed to throw the ball 18 times on Sunday, completing 11 of those for 216 yards and a touchdown. It marked the second straight game he's finished with a quarterback rating of more than 100 (121.5) and did not throw an interception. Delhomme has now thrown a touchdown in seven of eight games. WR Steve Smith was outstanding again, and continues his march to Hawaii with five catches for 106 yards and his league-leading ninth touchdown. Smith now has six 100-yard receiving games and averaged 112.8 yards per game in the first half of the season. WR Ricky Proehl had only one catch for the Panthers -- but it was a big one, good for 62 yards to set up a RB Stephen Davis touchdown run. Carolina's offensive line played extremely well, allowing just one sack.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- If the Panthers have an Achilles heel this season, it's their running game. Once again the Panthers were stuffed; held to 2.4 yards per carry as a team against the league's top run defense. However, Stephen Davis continues to find the end zone, adding to his franchise single-season record with his 10th and 11th touchdowns of the season. That puts him on pace to shatter his career-high of 17 rushing TDs back in 1999 with the Washington Redskins. Backup RB DeShaun Foster had a rough game; held to 23 yards on 16 carries for a 1.4-yard average. However, most of his runs came when the game was out of hand and the Bucs were keying on the run. Even head coach John Fox admitted after the game that the Panthers need to improve in the running game.
PASS DEFENSE: A-plus -- Carolina's pass defense was superb for a third straight week, registering four turnovers and five sacks on young Bucs QB Chris Simms. DEs Mike Rucker and Julius Peppers finally both put together big games together, combining for four sacks and one forced fumble. Simms did throw for one touchdown early when WR Joey Galloway beat FS Mike Minter for a 50-yard score, but that was about Carolina's only big defensive mistake of the game. CB Chris Gamble had two picks for the Panthers and scored Carolina's first defensive touchdown of the season on a 61-yard interception return.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-plus -- The Panthers held rookie RB Carnell Williams to just 29 yards on 11 carries, a mere 2.6 yards per carry. As a team, the Bucs rushed for just 44 yards and were held to 2.4 yards per carry. Also, the Panthers forced a Williams fumble, resulting in a Stephen Davis touchdown. Seventeen Carolina points came off Tampa Bay turnovers. Another terrific game in the middle for Carolina's big pig farmer, DT Jordan Carstens.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- John Kasay added two short field goals and punter Jason Baker did fine, but there really were no huge special teams plays in this game other than perhaps Steve Smith's 28-yard punt return.
COACHING: A-plus -- This was supposed to be a close, heated contest, but the Panthers blew out the Bucs. There was outstanding game planning on both sides of the football for the Panthers. Carolina's defense is really clicking now and playing with a tremendous amount of confidence. Defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac turned in another fabulous game plan to confuse Simms.
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