Buccaneer Defense Gets Wake-up Call
Warren Sapp and the rest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneer defense gathered on the sideline and had a discussion about the Carolina Panthers.
“They drove right down the field on us, and we kind of looked at each other like, ‘What’s up? No more, no more,” ’ Sapp said after the Buccaneers rebounded from the Panthers scoring on their first possession for a 23-10 victory that gave them sole possession of first place in the NFC South.
“This is the same team we played three weeks ago, and they ain’t got nothing but a new quarterback in there with a little bit more pocket savvy, so let’s go get ‘em. And we went to work.”
After Rodney Peete led the Panthers on a 12-play, 68-yard touchdown drive, the NFL’s top-ranked defense forced four turnovers and allowed only 161 more yards.
Tampa Bay (8-2) is off to its best start after 10 games. With New Orleans losing, 24-17, at Atlanta, the Buccaneers are alone atop the division heading into games the next three weeks against NFC North leader Green Bay, New Orleans and surging Atlanta.
“We’ve just got to keep pushing right now, because we’ve put ourselves into a position to win this division,” Sapp said. “Now we’ve got to go do it.”
Carolina (3-7) has blown fourth-quarter leads five times during a seven-game losing streak, but Tampa Bay took care of this one before it got that far.
Brad Johnson threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson in the second quarter, then broke a 10-10 tie with a 22-yard scoring pass to Keenan McCardell late in the third quarter. Martin Gramatica added field goals of 20, 32 and 41 yards.
The Buccaneers had defeated the Panthers, 12-9, without scoring a touchdown last month. Neither team’s starting quarterback played that day, with Peete recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and Johnson sidelined because of a broken rib.