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CAROLINA 26, TAMPA BAY 24

Johnson Sinks Former Team

September 25, 2006|From the Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — Keyshawn Johnson has been with the Carolina Panthers only a few months, yet his teammates already have picked up on one thing about the ultra-confident, loquacious receiver.

"Win or lose, Keyshawn's going to have the last word," fellow receiver Steve Smith said Sunday after Johnson scored two touchdowns and had a clutch catch to help set up the winning field goal in a 26-24 victory over Tampa Bay, his former team.

Johnson insisted that 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 Coach Jon Gruden.

He got both, thanks to Jake Delhomme, who led a last-minute drive that produced John Kasay's fourth long field goal, with two 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 Chris Simms' first pass to set up Delhomme's 31-yard touchdown pass to Johnson, who later scored on a four-yard run to put the Panthers ahead, 17-0, in the second quarter.

Simms, who took several hard hits but finished the game, later had his spleen removed and was expected to be hospitalized for several days.

Kasay kicked field goals of 51, 50 and 49 yards before making the 46-yard kick 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 seven to the Tampa Bay 30.

Johnson finished with seven receptions for 97 yards. Smith returned after sitting out Carolina's first two games because of a sore hamstring and had seven catches for 112 yards.

Delhomme completed 22 of 36 passes for 272 yards.

Tampa Bay fell to 0-3 for the 10th time. The only time it has rebounded to make the playoffs was with a 5-4 record during the strike-shortened 1982 season.

Johnson helped the 2002 Buccaneers win the Super Bowl in their first season under Gruden, but the two never had a cozy relationship. The rift intensified in 2003, leading to the receiver's deactivation for the last six games and trade to Dallas.

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