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Losing ends for Panthers

November 14, 2006|From the Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers were chased off the field by boos at halftime. Even Steve Smith's stomach was turning.

As the second half wore on, Smith was feeling better, the Panthers got it turned around -- and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were feeling all the worse for it.

Jake Delhomme threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson for the go-ahead score in the third quarter and Julius Peppers had three sacks and recovered a fumble for the Panthers, who beat the Buccaneers, 24-10, on Monday night to end a two-game losing streak.

Smith was seen repeatedly vomiting into a garbage can on the sidelines, once after a long catch early in the second half. But he stayed in the game, catching eight passes for 149 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter that sealed it.

"My little girl was sick," Smith said, "and so, and she's a daddy's girl, kissing on me and so -- I got the flu. What happens in the house just goes around the parents."

Rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski threw two interceptions and lost a fumble for the Buccaneers (2-7), who committed turnovers on four of five possessions in the second and third quarters to blow a 7-0 halftime lead in their third straight loss.

Forced to wait 15 days to play again after allowing 25 fourth-quarter points in a loss to Dallas, the Panthers managed only three first downs and 98 yards in the first half. Their drives in that half went: punt, fumble, punt, punt, punt, interception.

Fans, upset with the play-calling and the Panthers inability to run, showed their displeasure early and saved the loudest boos as the Panthers walked off the field at halftime with only three first downs against a team missing three defensive starters to injury, including Simeon Rice.

Carolina scored on four of its first six drives in the second half.

"It was more than a day, it was the last 15 days," Panthers Delhomme said. "We really laid an egg 15 days ago against Dallas. It's just nice to get a win. It's a crazy league."

"My two bigs, Keyshawn and Steve, I just try to get them the ball and they make me look good."

Peppers, going up against second-year offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood after a season-ending injury to Kenyatta Walker, took over the NFL lead with 11 sacks.

Gradkowski, who came into the game with only one interception in 186 games -- an NFL record for most attempts to start a career without two picks -- struggled with his accuracy.

He overthrew an open Joey Galloway for what would have been a touchdown in the first quarter.

He later underthrew two passes near the end zone, resulting in interceptions for Ken Lucas and Shaun Williams. He even bounced a pass off Peppers' helmet.

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