How the Panthers Gashed Tampa Bay

Both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart exceeded 100 yards rushing in the Panthers' win Sunday over Tampa Bay, helping Carolina run for 267 yards overall. The Panthers took advantage of Williams' shiftiness and speed, Stewart's strength and vision, and solid blocking by teammates, including wide receivers.

That team effort helped them score all four touchdowns. Five straight runs yielded 46 yards on their first scoring drive, which ended in Williams' 20-yard run. Four consecutive runs following a Thomas Davis interception netted 11 yards and set up the next score, Delhomme's 1-yard pass to Jeff King. Four runs in six plays yielded 47 yards for another touchdown, this one a Stewart 26-yard run.

That run gave Carolina a 21-7 edge in the third quarter. It also was a harbinger for the Panthers' decisive final drive, which broke a 21-21 tie late in the game. The Panthers lined up selling run and the Bucs stacked the box, but the offensive line blew them off the ball. This would be a common theme on that final march, a 16-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 8:04 of the final 8:33 on the clock with 15 basic running plays.

On that drive Carolina converted three third downs, and a key second down that forced Tampa to burn all its timeouts on defense. Here is a look at those four key plays, plus the touchdown that put Carolina ahead with 29 seconds to play: 

Situation: 3rd-and-1, Carolina 41. 6:10 to play in the fourth quarter.

Formations: The Panthers lined up with Stewart alone in the backfield, two receivers to the left and two tight ends on the line. The Bucs were in a 4-3 with a safety in the box and a linebacker showing blitz.

What happened: Following Delhomme's second interception, which the Bucs returned for a touchdown, Carolina got the ball back at its own 20. Two Bucs touchdowns -- neither on offense -- in nine minutes had erased a 21-7 Panthers lead and tied the game. The Panthers promptly moved 21 yards on three runs and a 4-yard Delhomme pass to Steve Smith. To keep the drive going and regain some momentum, they needed to convert this third down.

They did. Stewart took the handoff and ran right for 10 yards until a safety dragged him down.

How it happened: The line created a huge role for Stewart, who quickly accelerated through it.

The result: First down on the Tampa 49.

 

Situation: 3rd-and-3, Tampa 42. 4:40 to play in the fourth.

Formations: Carolina split one receiver out left and bunched three players tight on the right. Stewart was alone in the backfield. Tampa stacked nine players in the box.

What happened: Stewart ran up the middle for nine yards until a safety pulled him down.

How it happened: Stewart's teammates created a seam for him. He patiently found it, then shot through it. A Tampa corner hovering near  the line of scrimmage played pass. By the time he saw the run developing, it was too late for him to stop Stewart.

The result: First down on the Tampa 33. Three more runs moved the Panthers to the 17. That set up:

 

Situation: 2nd-and-4, Tampa 17. 2:00 to play in the fourth.

Tampa had all three timeouts. To have a reasonable chance at winning the game, the Bucs could not allow the Panthers to get another first down.

Formations: Carolina used the same bunch formation as the previous third-down play. Tampa again stacked nine players near the line of scrimmage.

What happened: Williams ran right for five yards until another Buc defensive back had to make a tackle.

How it happened: The line got a great push and Williams found a big enough hole to run through. Muhsin Muhammad missed a block on a Tampa corner, but the corner took a bad angle and missed a chance to nail Williams in the backfield.

The result: Tampa burned its first timeout. The Panthers also had a first down, meaning they could milk the clock under a minute before the Bucs would get the ball back.

 

Situation: 3rd-and-1, Tampa 3. 1:22 to play in the fourth. Tampa was out of timeouts.

Formations: Carolina lined up in I-formation with no receivers. Tampa used five down linemen with a linebacker showing blitz. All 11 Bucs were near the line. 

What happened: Williams ran right for two yards.

How it happened: The offensive line pushed the Bucs back and Williams followed Hoover into a big enough hole to get the first down.

The result: First down at the Tampa 1. The Panthers could now run out the clock and set up a field goal if they wanted to.

 

Situation: 1st-and-goal, Tampa 1. 0:34 to play in the fourth.

Formations: Both teams ran the same formations they had used on the previous play.

What happened: Williams ran up the middle for the touchdown.

How it happened: The line again knocked the Bucs back, Williams again followed Hoover and dove into the end zone.

The result: After the extra point, the Panthers were up 28-21 with 29 seconds to play. Tampa got the ball back but had no timeouts. The Bucs never got close to scoring again and the Panthers earned their second straight win.

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