Carolina's offense just came up with a very big play, with Steve Smith catching a 37-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-4 to tie the game at 7-all with 11:43 to go in the second quarter.
The 88-yard drive took only six plays and reversed Carolina's poor fortunes in its first two possessions.
The Panthers offense actually drew a scattering of boos after another Moore incompletion forced a second punt (fans also thought Tampa Bay might have interfered on the play).
And the first quarter was all Bucs: Tampa Bay outgained Carolina, 93-33, and Matt Moore was only 1-for-5 for 8 yards.
But the Panthers' third possession, which started at the Carolina 12, began more promisingly. Jonathan Stewart broke a 19-yard run, and Moore then hit Dante Rosario over the middle to get past midfield. (The 26-yard catch should have been challenged by Tampa Bay, as the ball appeared to hit the ground, but Carolina rushed to the line and got a play off before the Bucs could challenge).
On third-and-4 from Tampa's 37, Rosario dropped a very catchable five-yard pass. John Fox then decided to go for it on fourth-and-4 -- it would have been a 54-yard field goal, at the edge of John Kasay's range -- and Smith grabbed the ball over the middle, accelerated and scored from 37 yards out. Tampa Bay had at least one safety who was trapped too close to the line of scrimmage on the play, so once Smith caught the pass, the field was wide open for him. It was Smith's second TD of the season.
11 months ago