The Panthers and Bucs showed why they are a combined 1-8 in the first half. And they have set the stage for what promises to be an angry second half following a terrible personal foul on Carolina's Dante Wesley that incited the entire Tampa Bay bench and crowd.
Both teams have now missed field goals -- the Bucs had a 43-yarder go short, and John Kasay had a 52-yarder blocked. And they've both fumbled the ball in bad situations.
As for the fumbles: First, Tampa Bay lost one on a pitchout at its own 23, and Carolina's Hollis Thomas recovered.
However, the Panthers' Jonathan Stewart then returned that gift, fumbling after a 14-yard run to Tampa Bay's 3. That negated a possible Carolina TD and instead kept the score at 7-7.
So that's where it remained at halftime -- tied at 7-all. Tampa Bay had another mild drive short-circuited by a penalty and a Julius Peppers sack. Carolina then got the ball on its own 20 with 56 seconds left and all three timeouts but couldn't get but one first down (Jake Delhomme wasn't helped by two Dante Rosario drops on that drive).
Carolina then ran its patented third-and-10 draw play and fell well short, which was about to bring a forgettable half to a thankful close. But first, there was a big scrum that began when Carolina's Dante Wesley absolutely creamed a helpless Clifton Smith while Smith was waiting for a punt.
What got into Wesley is hard to imagine -- he's never been considered a dirty player. It will be interesting to hear his explanation.
Wesley got a 15-yard personal foul penalty and was correctly thrown out of the game. The crowd yelled "Throw him out! Throw him out!" before the official action was announced. Smith stayed on the ground for some time, flat on his back, but then walked off under his own power.
NFL schedule will be released Wednesday at 8 p.m.
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