Things in Tampa have not started well for Carolina. Panther punter Jason Baker just sustained his third blocked punt of the year, and the second one that went for a TD.
Just like in the Chicago game a couple of weeks ago, the Panthers' first possession ended with a punt, a special-teams miscue and a score by the opposing team.
In this case, Tampa Bay LB Geno Hayes came through right up the middle, blowing by a couple of would-be blockers, and smothered Baker's punt almost before it left his foot. Hayes also recovered it and ran it in for a TD, and it was 7-0.
It's obvious, incidentally, that this is only the second-biggest sporting event in Tampa this weekend. This is a late-arriving crowd, and the upper deck isn't close to full. That's probably partly because the Tampa Bay Rays, who are playing the Boston Red Sox in the AL Championship Series, finished their game at 1:15 a.m. Sunday, winning 9-8 on a sacrifice fly. That's what most of the pregame talk here was about.
10 months ago