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Williams leads Bucs over Panthers, share of NFC South lead

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tired of getting beaten over and over
again by a bitter rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did everything
possible to end the streak.

They were physical. Used tough defense. Focused on tackling. Ran
the ball right up the gut.


Everything the Carolina Panthers had done to them in five
straight losses.

This time the Bucs came out on top, riding Carnell "Cadillac"
Williams in a 20-10 victory over the Panthers on Sunday to pull
into a tie with Carolina for first place in the NFC South.

"We talk about outplaying our opponents' defense every week and
the past five times we played these guys we definitely haven't done
that," said Ronde Barber, who became the first NFL cornerback to
notch 20 sacks and 20 interceptions with one of each against
Carolina.

"Without a doubt, we can say we did that this time."

Williams ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns to put the Bucs
back in first place with a rare win over a quality opponent.

"I think this kind of showed everybody that we're for real,"
Williams said. "We're just looking for a chance."

Both Tampa Bay (9-4) and Carolina (9-4) have NFC South rivals
Atlanta and New Orleans remaining, and the Falcons (7-5) are 1{
games out of the lead heading into Monday night's game against the
Saints.

"We put ourselves in a situation where we've got to work for
three more weeks," Carolina safety Mike Minter said. "We've got
to go out and take care of these next three weeks like its the
playoffs."

Had the Panthers played that way against the Bucs, they'd have
control of the division.

Instead, Tampa Bay used stingy defense to hold Carolina to 276
yards and end a five-game losing streak that had gotten under coach
Jon Gruden's skin.

"We lost five in a row -- but now they've got a one-game losing
streak," Gruden said. "You can go ask them about that streak."

Williams, finding running room that was nonexistent in
Carolina's 34-14 victory earlier this season, pounded his way
through the Panthers defense. Held to just 29 yards in the first
meeting with Carolina, Williams had almost bettered that by the end
of the first quarter.

He dragged defenders with him every time he touched the ball,
proving almost impossible to hold to a short gain.

Then he exploited the absence of defensive end Mike Rucker
(sprained ankle) by bursting through the right side of Carolina's
line for an 11-yard touchdown to put Tampa Bay up 7-0 in the first
quarter.

"I know Mike Rucker didn't play, I know that hurts their
front," Gruden said. "But it's a credit to Cadillac Williams. He
made some great cuts."

Williams' first score gave the Bucs a large enough advantage to
protect, but Tampa Bay added Matt Bryant's two field goals to go up
13-0 early in the third quarter.

Carolina's offense stalled for the first time in weeks.

Jake Delhomme's passing was spotty, and Carolina coach John
Fox's determination to establish the run frustrated the crowd,
which booed loudly after yet another three-down series of
go-nowhere runs with DeShaun Foster. He was held to 46 yards
rushing in his first start of the season.

Carolina turned to Steve Smith to spark a rally, with Delhomme
hitting him for a 60-yard gain on the Panthers' first play of the
second half. But the drive fizzled three plays later, and Carolina
settled for a 39-yard field goal from Kasay to get on the board.

Still, it put some life in the Panthers. They stopped the Bucs
on the next series, and Smith returned the ensuing punt 44 yards to
put them in scoring range.

But Delhomme made his biggest error of the game, ignoring a
wide-open Smith in favor of heavily covered Ricky Proehl, and was
intercepted by Ronde Barber to end the threat.

"I'm surprised Jake threw that ball because I was right on his
hip," Barber said.

The turnover set the Bucs up to ride the game out behind
Williams, who tiptoed his way into the end zone on a 10-yard
touchdown that put Tampa Bay up 20-3.

Fans started filing out with 5:39 to play knowing Carolina's
grasp on the NFC South lead had slipped away.

"They came in and beat us, plain and simple," Delhomme said.
"They played better than us."

Game notes
Williams' first score was the first touchdown scored
against Carolina in 11 quarters. ... Tampa Bay defensive tackle
Anthony McFarland left in the first half with a strained hamstring
and did not return. ... The Bucs converted 10-of-17 third downs,
compared to just 2-of-11 for Carolina. ... Stephen Davis, who was
replaced by Foster in the starting lineup, had four carries for 23
yards.