CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- I’m heading down to the locker rooms and will be back with extensive analysis a bit later. In the meantime, here’s my Rapid Reaction on Tampa Bay's victory over Carolina.
What it means: For the Buccaneers, they now are 2-0 and that’s not a misprint. Yeah, the victories have come against Jake Delhomme and the guy who replaced Delhomme (Matt Moore). But, hey, they’re still NFL victories and the Bucs now have only one less win then they did all last season. They could match last season’s win total with a victory at home against Pittsburgh, which could be starting quarterback Charlie Batch next Sunday. I don’t think selling out Raymond James Stadium will be a problem this time. Sure, the Pittsburgh transplants are going to help, but the Bucs might have sold some tickets and won back some fans with their first two wins.
For the Panthers, you don’t want to ever say a season is over after only two games, but this one’s hanging by a thread. Let’s be real honest: coach John Fox is a lame duck, the quarterback situation is no better than it was a year ago, the defense got shredded by Josh Freeman and it’s going to take one incredible turnaround for the Panthers to make anything of this season. Fox’s résumé already is showing up in mailboxes around the league.
What’s next: After the Steelers, the Bucs have a bye week. That means they’re going into the bye at 2-1 or 3-0. For a young team, you can’t ask for a much better start.
For the Panthers, I think you can say the countdown to Jimmy Clausen starting is ticking rapidly. There was a time when I thought the rookie quarterback would take over for Moore after Carolina’s open date (Oct. 17). With Cincinnati, New Orleans and Chicago coming up before the bye and Moore not showing much, we could see Clausen starting at any time.
Tomorrow's Talker: Are the Bucs the surprise team this season? Come on, let’s keep things in perspective. They’ve defeated a pair of dysfunctional teams in Carolina and Cleveland. This is a very nice start for a team that was 3-13 last year, and there also are encouraging signs popping up all over the place. But the season’s still young and so is this team. The arrow’s on the rise, but it’s not quite pointing to the Super Bowl in Dallas just yet.
Hero: Freeman. This kid is for real. He went out and won a game Sunday with his arm, legs and head. How many times in team history has that really happened? The Bucs now have a franchise quarterback.
Goat: Moore. This team has bigger problems than just the quarterback play, and it’s been that way for over a year now. But, still, the Panthers knew what they had in Moore, a former undrafted free agent. He never was the answer, and Fox’s stubbornness probably is going to result in the end of his time in Carolina.
Trending: Sales of Freeman jerseys at malls in the Tampa Bay area and sales of Clausen jerseys and Bill Cowher chins throughout the Carolinas. Just a prediction here: Sometime this season, Carolina fans will be chanting for Tony Pike.
Unsung Hero: Quincy Black. The Bucs were raving about young outside linebackers Black and Geno Hayes all during the preseason. They weren’t lying. Black put a vicious hit on Moore on a third-quarter blitz and he and Hayes were part of the reason Tampa Bay’s defense is starting to look very good again.