Panthers beat the Super Bowl champions 27-24

"We want to be known as a running team and that's great,'' Delhomme said. ``But when the opportunity to throw the ball comes up, we're going to make plays.''

Jake Delhomme's 5-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith with 1:06 remaining overcame a late Tampa Bay rally and lifted the Panthers to a 27-24 victory Sunday in the matchup of two suddenly bitter rivals.

Delhomme finished 20-for-32 for 277 yards with two touchdowns -- he also threw a 66-yarder to Proehl -- and two interceptions. Proehl finished with three catches for 133 yards.

The victory silenced the Bucs (4-5) and dropped them three games behind the Panthers (7-2) in the NFC South and Carolina holds the tiebreaker.

``I'll say it: I can't stand them,'' said defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. ``When they pull on their red and we pull on our blue, it's like the Bloods and the Crips. They talk too much, they want to flash `I'm a superstar.' Well, now that talk don't mean nothing. ``We beat them not once, but twice, and I'm going to celebrate while they go home to watch TV.''

Carolina declined to respond to Tampa Bay's baiting all week, promising the Panthers would have plenty to say Sunday.

``They thought they were going to win and we thought otherwise,'' Delhomme said. ``We just kept our mouths shut and went to work.''

But the Bucs almost backed up their words with a late rally behind Brad Johnson, who threw two-fourth quarter touchdowns to lift them out of a 20-13 hole.

His 23-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson made it 20-14 with 10:19 to play. On the next possession, facing fourth-and-1, Brad Johnson dumped off an 18-yard pass to Warren Sapp to keep the drive alive.

Keenan McCardell then made a one-armed circus catch at the edge of the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown and a 21-20 Tampa Bay lead with 4:44 to play.

The Bucs seemed to put the game away when Delhomme was intercepted for the second time by Tim Wansley, who returned the first one 23 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Wansley set up Martin Gramatica's 39-yard field goal for a 24-20 lead.

Already playing without Stephen Davis, the NFC's leading rusher and the only real pulse in Carolina's offense, the Panthers had to rely on Delhomme and a suspect passing game to win it.

Delhomme stayed calm, throwing a 29-yard pass to Ricky Proehl and then holding steady in a quickly collapsing pocket to throw a 22-yarder to Muhsin Muhammad as he was getting hit.

As both teams hurried back to the line, Delhomme quickly hit Smith on the edge of the end zone. Smith was in the air when he made the catch and was flipped over the line by a defender for the go-ahead score.

``We want to be known as a running team and that's great,'' Delhomme said. ``But when the opportunity to throw the ball comes up, we're going to make plays.''


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