RIVALRY WITH BUCS HAS BEEN A GOOD ONE
I remember back in 1995 as the Panthers were putting together their first team, talking with both club president Mike McCormack and GM Bill Polian about what style of team they would like to have. Both looked west and said a team, like the 49ers. It made sense since San Francisco was busy winning plenty of Super Bowls and they were part of the new NFC West which included the Falcons, Saints and Rams and Panthers. (If you were a geography teacher, this division was hard to explain.) Both McCormack and Polian looked at the 49ers organization as one to emulate. By 2002 the Panthers had changed plans a couple of times on what they wanted to be as a team and left it up to John Fox and Marty Hurney to turn things around after the disaster that was the 2001 season. The NFL realigned again and this time the Panthers moved to the NFC South with the Falcons, Saints and Tampa Bay Bucs. I always thought a rivalry would develop with Atlanta when the Panthers joined the NFL in 1995 but by 2003 it was Carolina vs Tampa that got the blood boiling. Now the Panthers were not worried about the 49ers anymore and the Bucs were the team to beat in the new division. It started with the second game of the 2003 season when the Panthers blocked an extra point with no time left to force the contest into overtime. A game won by the Panthers with a field goal. Brenston Buckner turned up the heat more when he said Kris Jenkins was better than Warren Sapp, the Bucs d-lineman. Sapp fired back that Jenkins had not eaten any pineapple yet, referring to the Pro Bowl held each year in Hawaii. Each team seemed to mirror each other in the way they wanted to play the game. Run the ball on offense and play hard nosed defense. Its created some memorable confrontations with the series continuing Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
JAKE HAS GOTTEN BETTER
Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme didn't put up good numbers in that overtime contest in '03 when he hit 9 of 23 for 96 yards and a QB rating of 15.9. But since he took over as the starting quarterback Jake is 7-1 against the Bucs and after the sad stats from the overtime win, Delhomme has thrown 13 td passes in the last 7 games with just five interceptions.
GETTING TO 5-1
Did you know that since 2003 only 2 of 27 teams that started the season 5-1 or better failed to make the playoffs? A Panther win Sunday would make them 5-1
CALLING THE ACTION
I have the pleasure of calling Sunday's game between the Panthers and Bucs for Westwood One Radio. If I said it was just another game for me I would be lying to you. It's always special for me to see folks from an organization I worked with for 10 years. I still have a solid relationship with John Fox and many of his staff and players. It's also always good to see my former partners in the Panther Radio booth. My call won't be tilted one way or another. Every game I call for national radio is one in which I try to be "fair and balanced" By the way the broadcast is not heard in either North or South Carolina because we can't infringe on the Panthers radio network, ditto in Florida for the Bucs radio network. It's not on Sirius either but it will be on in 47 other states, check your local listing.
Enjoy the weekend!.
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