Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Panthers rally to beat Buccaneers

AFP , CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Joey Galloway, at rear, of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers goes for a ball as Ken Lucas of the Carolina Panthers makes an interception on Monday at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

PHOTO: AFP

Steve Smith stepped up in the second half as Carolina rallied from a poor start to post a 24-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday.

Coming off their National Football League bye week, the Panthers (5-4) managed under 100 total yards, committed a costly turnover and had numerous untimely penalties in the first half, which ended with the Bucs holding a 7-0 lead.

Smith also struggled in the first half while playing through a bout of the flu. The Pro Bowl wide receiver appeared to vomit into a garbage can on the sidelines.

After intermission, Smith flourished as he finished with eight catches for 149 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown catch with 3:11 remaining that gave the Panthers a 24-10 lead.

Jake Delhomme completed 22-of-34 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for the Panthers, who pulled within a game of first-place New Orleans in the NFC South.

Julius Peppers carried things on the defensive side of the ball as he tied a career high with three sacks.

Rookie Bruce Gradkowski threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard in the first quarter for the Bucs (2-7), who lost their third straight game.

Gradkowski's score was set up when former Buc Keyshawn Johnson lost a fumble at his own 48. The young signal-caller then had a 27-yard completion to Joey Galloway.

In just his sixth career start, Gradkowski completed 17-of-32 passes for 173 yards and two interceptions. He was just 6-of-12 for 63 yards with a lost fumble in the second half.

After Matt Bryant kicked a 28-yard field goal with 8:32 remaining to pull the Bucs within 17-10, the Panthers answered with an eight-play, 72-yard drive. Delhomme capped the march with the connection to Smith down the left sideline.

It was the fourth 100-yard game of the season for Smith, who had seven receptions for 112 yards in a 26-24 win at Tampa Bay on Sept. 24.

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