Final

Panthers 16

(1-8, 0-4 away)

Buccaneers 31

(6-3, 3-2 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, November 14, 2010

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL 

1 2 3 4 T
CAR 3 7 6 016
TB 7 14 0 1031

Top Performers

Passing: J. Freeman (TB) - 241 YDS, 2 TD

Rushing: M. Goodson (CAR) - 23 CAR, 100 YDS

Receiving: M. Williams (TB) - 4 REC, 68 YDS

Josh Freeman throws for two scores as Bucs beat Panthers

Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- As long as Tampa Bay keeps winning, Raheem Morris doesn't care how others feel about how the surprising Buccaneers stack up against the rest of the NFC.

The NFL's youngest team has already doubled its win total from last season, impressing their coach with the type of resilience that's normally associated with more experienced teams.

Rebounding from a tough loss to Atlanta that knocked them out of first place in the NFC South, the Bucs (6-3) beat the Carolina Panthers 31-16 Sunday.

Josh Freeman threw two touchdown passes and rookie LeGarrette Blount ran for a score before an announced crowd of 44,264 -- more than 20,000 shy of capacity at Raymond James Stadium.

Losing to the Falcons forced Morris to back off his declaration that Tampa Bay is the best team in the NFC, however the Bucs are convinced they have what it takes to remain in contention for a playoff berth.

"This team has done it throughout the season," Morris said. "We got beat bad by the Pittsburgh Steelers and we bounced back. We came out got beat bad by the New Orleans Saints and we bounced back. It's no different when you get beat by Atlanta. ... You can't have any hangovers. This team is too young for hangovers."

Freeman threw TD passes of 8 yards to Arrelious Benn and 20 yards to Kellen Winslow. Blount rushed for 91 yards and scored on a 17-yard run in the first half, and Cadillac Williams put the game out of reach with a 45-yard TD burst on third-and-10 late in the fourth quarter.

Rookie Jimmy Clausen made his fourth start at quarterback for injury-riddled Carolina (1-8), which got 100 yards rushing on 23 carries from fourth-string running back Mike Goodson.

Josh Vaughan scored on a 2-yard run and John Kasay kicked field goals of 46, 28 and 48 yards for the Panthers, who also drove to the Tampa Bay 1 in the closing seconds only to have Clausen denied the end zone on consecutive quarterback sneaks.

"I thought Jimmy played well enough to give us a chance, and I think he'll continue to improve," Carolina coach John Fox said of the second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame.

"We knew it was going to be tough sledding. Their quarterback does an outstanding job," Fox said. "They operate pretty smooth in the passing game, and I thought they did so today as well."

Tampa Bay started seven rookies, including Benn and fellow receiver Mike Williams, who also had a productive day. According to the Bucs, the last time a team started as many as seven rookies in a game it won, Dallas beat Jacksonville on Nov. 24, 2002.

Freeman, who's in his second season, completed 18 of 24 passes for 241 yards and no interceptions. Cadillac Williams gained 16 yards on a third-down screen pass to keep the clinching drive alive, then broke through an opening on the right side of the line and raced untouched to the end zone to end any chance for a Carolina comeback.

Already last in the league in yards gained and points scored, the Panthers played without injured running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and simply lacked the firepower to keep up with a Bucs offense that's become more balanced since the 247-pound Blount took on a bigger role three weeks ago.

The rookie best known for punching an opposing player after a game when he was in college at Oregon, carried five times for 73 yards on an 87-yard scoring drive that Tampa Bay covered entirely on the ground. He broke runs of 12, 24 and 17 yards before finishing the drive with another 17-yarder that put the Bucs up 14-3 early in the second quarter.

"We came out fast, executed our game plan and did everything we planned," Blount said. "The defense came out and played well also."

Although Goodson had some success running the ball for Carolina, Clausen rarely looked to throw downfield and put pressure on the Bucs with the passing game.

The rookie's longest completion was 18 yards until Clausen completed a 24-yarder up the sideline to Steve Smith to set up the first of two field goals Kasay kicked in the third quarter to trim Tampa Bay's lead to 21-16.

Freeman reduced the suspense, leading a fourth-quarter field goal drive that Connor Barth finished with a 32-yarder that made it 24-16 with 10 minutes remaining.

Clausen was 16 of 29 passing for 191 yards and no interceptions. He was sacked twice.

"I thought guys made improvements. The results weren't quite what we were looking for," said Fox, noting that the Panthers are also coping with injuries.

"When you're in a close game like that, field goals are not going win a game for you," Clausen added. "When you get down to the red zone, you need to put seven points on the board."

Game notes


Winslow had six receptions for 65 yards. His TD was his first of the season. ... Mike Williams had four catches for 68 yards and Benn finished with two for 29 yards for Tampa Bay. ... The Panthers were swept by their NFC South rivals for the first time since 2002, the year the division was formed.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
CAR
TB
1st Downs1821
Passing 1st downs
911
Rushing 1st downs
69
1st downs from Penalties
31
3rd down efficiency
6-155-10
4th down efficiency
0-10-0
Total Plays6255
Total Yards300421
Yards per play4.87.7
Total Drives1111
Passing182235
Comp - Att
16-2918-24
Yards per pass
6.39.8
Interceptions thrown
00
Sacks - Yards Lost
2-91-6
Rushing118186
Rushing Attempts
3130
Yards per rush
3.86.2
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-32-3
Penalties7-7110-80
Turnovers12
Fumbles lost
12
Interceptions thrown
00
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession28:4031:20

Passing Leaders

CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Clausen16/291916.6002-9
TBC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Freeman18/2424110.0201-6

Rushing Leaders

CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Goodson231004.3018
Clausen5112.206
TBCARYDSAVGTDLG
Blount19914.8124
Williams56212.4145

Receiving Leaders

CARRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Smith34715.70346
Gettis34214.00183
TBRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Williams46817.00287
Winslow66510.81206

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERCARTB
tbTD10:37Arrelious Benn 8 Yd Pass From Josh Freeman (Connor Barth Kick) 07
carFG00:52John Kasay 46 Yd 37
SECOND QUARTERCARTB
tbTD12:23LeGarrette Blount 17 Yd Run (Connor Barth Kick) 314
carTD07:57Josh Vaughan 2 Yd Run (John Kasay Kick) 1014
tbTD00:50Kellen Winslow 20 Yd Pass From Josh Freeman (Connor Barth Kick) 1021
THIRD QUARTERCARTB
carFG04:28John Kasay 28 Yd 1321
carFG01:02John Kasay 48 Yd 1621
FOURTH QUARTERCARTB
tbFG10:02Connor Barth 32 Yd 1624
tbTD02:42Cadillac Williams 45 Yd Run (Connor Barth Kick) 1631