"It is embarrassing," linebacker Barrett Ruud said. "You don't get many opportunities to have that national audience. This is by far our worst game of the year. We know we're not that team we showed out there (Monday). But it is what it is. We did it in front of national TV. Now we've got to regroup with one less day and go play Atlanta."
The victory gave the Panthers (10-3) sole possession of first place in the NFC South, where they control their own destiny and could grab the No. 1 seed in the conference by winning their three remaining games.
Tampa Bay (9-4), which snapped a four-game winning streak, doesn't have much time to rebound. The Bucs play at Atlanta (8-5) on Sunday and are now fighting for their playoff lives.
The Bucs entered the game with the NFL's fourth-rated defense overall, having allowed just one rushing touchdown and one 100-yard rusher all season.
But they were no match for the Panthers' dynamic duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who both eclipsed the century rushing mark in the game.
Williams had 19 carries for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Stewart rolled up 115 yards and a pair of scores.
Late in the game, the Panthers scored on a four-play drive and then a three-play drive.
"To put it bluntly, they ran the ball all over us," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "They probably had five plays. They probably ran five different plays. The same play over and over and over again. They out-physicalled us. We got beat at the point of attack. We had some tough tackles on the corners. Early in the game, we just weren't tackling, and it carried over."
The Bucs were playing without starting defensive tackle Jovan Haye, but his replacement, Ryan Sims, was not the only culprit.
"We think we're a much better team than we showed," Barber said. "But we knew this was going to be a physical game. There's no doubt this is a competitive division. Just give them credit. Hopefully, we'll see them again."
Bucs coach Jon Gruden wasn't making excuses for his defense Monday.
"Well, we missed a couple run fits, there's no question about that," Gruden said. "We missed a few tackles. A lot of that has to do with those two backs, they were outstanding. They did an excellent job, their receivers did, blocking on the perimeter. That created some one-on-one situations, and they took advantage of that (Monday) night. We've got to do a better job, obviously, as a coaching staff, and we've got to make some corrections in a hurry on a short week against another very good rushing football team."
Ruud: "It is embarrassing"
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