REPORT CARD VS. BUCCANEERS

QB Jake Delhomme completed six of seven passes on the drive for 78 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith for a the go-ahead score with just over one minute to play.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Sure, Jake Delhomme threw two awful interceptions - one of which was returned by Tim Wansley for a touchdown -- but he bounced back and showed great leadership by driving the Panthers for the go-ahead touchdown in the game's final three minutes. It wasn't pretty - some of the passes he completed were ducks - but he got it done. Delhomme completed six of seven passes on the drive for 78 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith for a the go-ahead score with just over one minute to play. Ricky Proehl really stepped up on Sunday, catching three passes for 133 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown reception from Delhomme. Carolina's offensive line held the Bucs without a sack for nearly more than three quarters. Smith was again to the go-to guy with nine catches for 72 yards. He scored for the fourth time in five games.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- The Panthers were without the NFC's leading rusher Stephen Davis, who sat out the game with an ankle injury. DeShaun Foster made his first NFL start and ran for 56 yards on 22 carries, well below his 5.1-yard season average. Carolina had just 78 yards rushing as a team, their second-lowest mark of the season. The Bucs stacked the box and forced the Panthers to throw the ball. The result: Not a whole lot for room for Foster to run.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Carolina's defense was pitching a shutout until the fourth quarter when Brad Johnson caught fire. Johnson led the Bucs on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter, culminating with a pair of touchdown passes to Keenan McCardell and Keyshawn Johnson. However, the Panthers did come back and stuff the Bucs when they needed to on the game's final drive to clinch the win. Early in the game, Carolina safety Mike Minter set the tempo for the game with a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Panthers did a decent job of holding the Bucs running game in check as Michael Pittman had 12 carries for 50 yards and the Tampa Bay had 89 as a team. They did, however, allow four runs of more than 10 yards. Carolina's defensive front four was fired up all game long and rarely let up in their pursuit.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Panthers kicker John Kasay converted field goals of 47 and 45 yards making him a perfect 20-for-20 for the season. Kasay showed he can do more than kick extra points and field goals, converting a pooch punt off a fake field goal. Carolina's coverage teams did an outstanding job of holding the Bucs return teams in check. The only big mistake was a holding penalty on Kemp Rasmussen that nullified Rod Smart's kickoff return for a touchdown.

COACHING: B -- The Panthers came in knowing they'd have to win the game with an aerial attack and did a good job of getting Ricky Proehl into a game plan. All in all, a well called game by offensive coordinator Dan Henning. Defensively, the Panthers were great for three quarters, but had some breakdowns in the fourth. Still don't understand why John Fox accepted a holding penalty on the Bucs on third down instead of just declining it and getting the ball back on a punt. This time it worked out for the Panthers. The Panthers now have what amounts to a four-game lead (with tiebreakers) in the NFC South and can now set their sights on bigger things like home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.


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