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(Sunday, December 6th)
Final Score: Carolina 16, Tampa Bay 6
Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Jonathan Stewart rushed for 120 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown and John Kasay kicked three field goals, as the Carolina Panthers earned a 16-6 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC South Division matchup at Bank of America Stadium.
Matt Moore started in place of Jake Delhomme and threw for 161 yards on 14- of-20 passes with an interception for the Panthers (5-7), who had lost to Miami and the New York Jets the last two weeks. Carolina has split its last six games overall. Kasay's first field goal was the 400th of his career.
"He hasn't been in for a long time. I thought he threw with pretty good velocity. He made for the most part pretty good decisions, " Panthers head coach John Fox said about Moore. "A couple things he needs to clean up, but all in all I thought he played well enough for us to win and that's key."
Delhomme missed the game after breaking a finger on his throwing hand in last weekend's loss to the Jets. Running back DeAngelo Williams was also held out with an ankle injury he suffered in the same game.
Steve Smith finished with three catches for 78 yards and Muhsin Muhammad had four receptions for 43 yards. Jon Beason had two interceptions.
Rookie Josh Freeman finished 23-of-44 for 321 yards but had five costly picks for Tampa Bay (1-11), which has dropped four straight after claiming its only win of the season, a 38-28 decision over Green Bay. Carnell Williams rushed for 92 yards on 17 handles and Antonio Bryant had five grabs for 116 yards. Connor Barth accounted for the only offense with a pair of field goals.
"Tough loss. Tough day for the young man (Freeman) in the red zone," Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris said. "Up until this point he's been really great in the red zone. Today he just made some bad decisions which he knows he can't make."
Carolina put up seven on its opening drive of the game. Using a strong running attack behind Stewart and 3-of-3 passing from Moore, the Panthers quickly moved the ball down the field, going 64 yards on 10 plays. Stewart banged over left tackle for a three-yard score to cap the series.
The Bucs picked up a first down on their initial offensive possession, but Charles Godfrey intercepted Freeman that led to a John Kasay 23-yard field goal and a 10-0 Carolina lead.
Barth split the uprights from 21 yards out early in the second quarter to get Tampa Bay on the board, then hit a 46-yarder after the Bucs' offense stalled following a Geno Hayes pick of Moore.
The Panthers continued to spin their wheels offensively, going three-and-out, but Tampa Bay couldn't take advantage. After moving the ball on the ground with Williams, the drive came to an end when Freeman took a sack at the Carolina 20 then threw an incompletion two plays later. Barth's 36-yard effort hit the left upright with nearly 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the half and Carolina held a 10-6 lead at the intermission.
Tampa Bay had another drive going on its opening try of the third quarter until Freeman's pass intended for Bryant was picked off by Beason in the end zone and returned to the 18. Stewart ripped off two nice runs sandwiched around a pair of completions from Moore that got the Panthers to the Tampa Bay 40. After a 15-yard Moore-to-Muhammad hookup, the drive hit a wall and Kasay booted a 40-yard field goal to make it 13-6 with 6:14 left in the third.
Freeman was picked off again by Beason as Tampa Bay got near the red zone on its next offensive set. Then after a failed Panthers drive, the Bucs again were moving the ball well as they got it to the Carolina three, but facing a 4th-and-goal, Freeman was intercepted in the end zone by Chris Harris with a little over 10 minutes to play.
The pick led to another Kasay make, this time from 23 yards out for a 10-point Carolina cushion with 7:12 remaining. Moore connected with Smith for a 66-yard catch-and-run to highlight the drive. Barth then missed a 42-yard attempt on the Bucs ensuing possession with just under 5 1/2 minutes left.
Tampa Bay was driving in hurry-up mode in the closing seconds, but Freeman was picked off by Chris Gamble at the Carolina eight-yard line, and Moore took a knee to run out the clock.
Carolina improved to 12-7 in its all time series with Tampa Bay, including a 28-21 win at Raymond James Stadium in Week 6...The Bucs will host the Jets next Sunday, while Carolina visits New England.
12/06 19:20:41 ET