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TAMPA BAY 12, CAROLINA 9

Confident Kicker Makes Difference

October 28, 2002|From Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jon Gruden glanced down the sideline at his kicker, wondering how confident Martin Gramatica was feeling. Gramatica gave him a knowing nod.

Gramatica kicked a 53-yard field goal to tie the score, then a 47-yarder with five seconds remaining to lift the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 12-9 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

"He asked me how I felt and I said, 'Good,' because I felt real good today," Gramatica said. "Thank God I made it, otherwise he'd stop asking."

Gramatica converted all four of his field-goal attempts to help the Buccaneers (6-2) win a defensive struggle. Three of the kicks came in the fourth quarter, including a 52-yarder.

Asked after the game what his range was, Gramatica laughed. "I guess it was 53. I was maxed out," he said.

That kick came with 1:55 to play and tied the score, 9-9. It was set up by a fumbled punt by Carolina's Steve Smith. Before that, the Panthers (3-5) appeared poised to win the game by forcing Tampa Bay to punt. Instead, the Buccaneers got the ball on their 42-yard line and needed only one play to move into Gramatica's range and tie the score.

"Our margin of error is not great enough where we can afford to make one mistake," Carolina Coach John Fox said.

After the tying kick, the Panthers failed to get a first down and had to punt with 1:20 left. Rob Johnson completed two passes to Keyshawn Johnson, then, after the quarterback took a hard hit, Shaun King connected with Karl Williams to set up with winner.

Panther rookie Randy Fasani completed five of 18 passes for 46 yards with three interceptions.

"I didn't play that well, and I expect more of myself," Fasani said. "Granted, it was a tough team to play against in my first start."

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