Final

Panthers 26

(1-2, 1-1 away)

Buccaneers 24

(0-3, 0-2 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, September 24, 2006

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL 

1 2 3 4 T
CAR 10 10 3 326
TB 0 7 14 324

Top Performers

Passing: J. Delhomme (CAR) - 272 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: D. Foster (CAR) - 20 CAR, 82 YDS

Receiving: S. Smith (CAR) - 7 REC, 112 YDS

Smith's return, Kasay's FG give Panthers first victory

TAMPA, Fla. (ESPN.com news services) -- Steve Smith made his return for the Carolina Panthers, but it was another reliable veteran who came through in the clutch.

It was over when ...
Carolina kicker John Kasay made a 46-yard field goal with two seconds remaining, as the Panthers recovered after twice blowing leads to beat the Buccaneers 26-24.
Game ball goes to ...
Kasay, whose four field goals were from 51, 50, 49 and 46 yards.
Scouts Inc.'s take ...
The Panthers won a huge game on the road and put themselves back into the NFC South race. Offensively, the Panthers' game plan was to attack between the tackles with RB DeShaun Foster to set up their quick, controlled passing attack. QB Jake Delhomme kept his poise and got back on track with the return of Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith, as Smith and Keyshawn Johnson combined for 14 catches for 209 yards.

The defeat was especially costly for the Bucs (0-3). Tampa Bay lost quarterback Chris Simms, who had his spleen removed after taking several hard hits. He was in stable condition Sunday night at St. Joseph's Hospital and was expected to make a full recovery.

Defensively, the Panthers did a good job of taking away the Buccaneers' running game. The Buccaneers were balanced on offense but couldn't generate a lot of positive yardage. The Panthers did a good job of confusing Simms on the back end in coverage and taking away wide receiver Joey Galloway. Carolina forced Simms to make quick decisions on third down with a lot of single-zone pressure schemes off the four-man rush.

John Kasay booted his fourth field goal of the game, a 46-yarder with two seconds remaining, to lift the Panthers to a crucial 26-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

And though Keyshawn Johnson has been with the Panthers only a few months, his teammates have already picked up on one thing about the ultraconfident, loquacious receiver.

"Win or lose, Keyshawn's going to have the last word," Smith said after Johnson scored two touchdowns and had a clutch catch to help set up the winning field goal against his former team.

Smith returned after missing Carolina's first two games with a sore hamstring and had seven catches for 112 yards.

Johnson insisted returning to Raymond James Stadium for the first time in three years was more about Carolina (1-2) getting its first victory than him getting personal satisfaction against former coach Jon Gruden.

He got both, thanks to Jake Delhomme, who led a last-minute drive that produced Kasay's fourth long field goal of the day with 2 seconds remaining.

"However it happened, it happened. We won the football game. That's the most important thing to me," Johnson said. "I'm not really caught up in any other hoopla. That was four years ago. ... I just care about helping this team get to a championship."

Chris Gamble intercepted Simms' first pass of the game to set up Delhomme's 31-yard TD pass to Johnson on the next play. Johnson later scored on a 4-yard run to put the Panthers up 17-0 in the second quarter.

Kasay kicked field goals of 51, 50 and 49 yards before booting a 46-yarder to win it. Delhomme drove into Tampa Bay territory with help from a 14-yard pass interference penalty and an 18-yard completion to Johnson, then got in scoring range by scrambling for 12 yards on fourth-and-7 to the Bucs 30.

Panthers coach John Fox said much of what the Panthers did with Johnson was dictated by Tampa Bay's defense -- not Johnson lobbying for a big role in the game plan.

Elias Says
John Kasay
Kasay
John Kasay kicked field goals of 51, 50, 49, and 46 yards in the Panthers' 26-24 win over the Bucs, to become the first player ever to kick four FGs longer than 45 yards in an NFL game.

• For more Elias Says, click here

"When you're 0-2 ... it wouldn't have mattered who we were playing," Fox said. "We were going to lean on Keyshawn big."

Johnson finished with seven receptions for 97 yards.

Battered and battling dehydration, Simms rebounded from a shaky first quarter to get the Bucs (0-3) back in the game.

He threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway in the second quarter, then took advantage of three second-half turnovers to put his team into a position to win.

Simms was unavailable for interviews after the game, instead spending extra time with trainers and doctors. He left for two plays in the second half because of cramps, but also appeared groggy after taking some big hits.

"He got hit early and he hurt his ribs. We don't know the extent of that, but he played hard and showed a lot of grit," Gruden said. "He is a very sore and tired man right now."

As it turned out, the 26-year-old was injured much more seriously than the team originally thought. He was hospitalized a few blocks from the stadium and had a spleenectomy, though it remained unclear at what point in the game the injury occurred.

"Chris is doing well and we anticipate a full recovery," team physician Dr. Joe Diaco said in a brief statement.

Simeon Rice forced two third-quarter fumbles for Tampa Bay. Shelton Quarles forced a third to set up Matt Bryant's 28-yard field goal for a 24-23 Bucs lead with five minutes remaining.

Delhomme, who was 22-of-36 for 272 yards, launched the winning drive from his own 23 with 1:41 left. Two plays before Kasay clinched it, the Panthers quarterback kept the march alive with his 12-yard run.

"He made a real instinctive play," Gruden said. "He saw that the middle of the field was vulnerable and made a play that you would expect an NFL veteran quarterback of his caliber to make at times like that."

If both teams hadn't lost their first two games, Johnson returning to Tampa to face his former team and the coach he couldn't get along with after winning a Super Bowl would have been a compelling story line in the days leading up to the game.

But with both teams desperately needing to win, nearly all of the focus was on what it would take to jump-start the season and avoid falling into a hole that few clubs have been able to escape.

Since 1990, just three teams -- the 1992 Chargers, 1995 Lions and 1998 Bills -- have overcome losing their first three games of the season to earn a postseason berth.

The Bucs fell to 0-3 for the 10th time. The only time they've rebounded to make the playoffs was with a 5-4 record during the strike-shortened 1982 season.

Johnson helped the 2002 Bucs win the Super Bowl in their first season under Gruden, but the two never had a cozy relationship. The rift intensified in 2003, eventually leading to the receiver being deactivated for the last six games and traded to Dallas for Galloway.

Johnson's rushing touchdown was the third of his career, and the first since 1998 when he scored on the ground once during the regular season and again in the playoffs for the New York Jets.

Game notes


Simms was 13-of-24 for 139 yards. ... Rookie Bruce Gradkowski replaced Simms when he left the game and completed his only pass for 16 yards. ... Johnson needs 1 yard to become the 26th player in NFL history with 10,000 receiving.

Information from SportsTicker and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
Carolina
Tampa Bay
1st Downs2213
3rd down efficiency
2-124-12
4th down efficiency
1-11-1
Total Yards350209
Yards per play5.24.1
Total Drives12
Passing249145
Comp-Att
22-3614-25
Yards per pass
6.95.8
Interceptions thrown
01
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-231-10
Rushing10164
Rushing Attempts
2825
Yards per rush
3.62.6
Penalties7-406-56
Turnovers32
Fumbles lost
31
Interceptions thrown
01
Possession34:2325:37

Passing Leaders

CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Delhomme22/362727.6103-23
TBC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Simms13/241395.8111-10
Gradkowski1/11616.0000-0

Rushing Leaders

CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Foster20824.1016
Delhomme2126.0012
TBCARYDSAVGTDLG
Williams19482.5111
Alstott3124.0010

Receiving Leaders

CARRECYDSAVGTDLG
Smith711216.0041
Johnson79713.9131
TBRECYDSAVGTDLG
Smith47218.0027
Pittman22512.5016

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERCARTB
TD0:59Keyshawn Johnson 31 Yd Pass From Jake Delhomme (John Kasay Kick)
Drive: 1 plays, 31 yds, :09
70
FG13:29John Kasay 51 Yd
Drive: 8 plays, 21 yds, 4:40
100
SECOND QUARTERCARTB
TD2:19Keyshawn Johnson 4 Yd Run (John Kasay Kick)
Drive: 5 plays, 59 yds, 3:00
170
TD8:03Joey Galloway 8 Yd Pass From Chris Simms (Matt Bryant Kick)
Drive: 10 plays, 82 yds, 5:44
177
FG14:10John Kasay 50 Yd
Drive: 4 plays, 8 yds, :48
207
THIRD QUARTERCARTB
TD2:14Carnell Williams 4 Yd Run (Matt Bryant Kick)
Drive: 2 plays, 15 yds, :39
2014
TD9:04Chris Simms 2 Yd Run (Matt Bryant Kick)
Drive: 10 plays, 51 yds, 5:16
2021
FG14:24John Kasay 49 Yd
Drive: 10 plays, 58 yds, 5:20
2321
FOURTH QUARTERCARTB
FG9:59Matt Bryant 28 Yd
Drive: 8 plays, 61 yds, 5:03
2324
FG14:58John Kasay 46 Yd
Drive: 8 plays, 48 yds, 1:39
2624