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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Making of a mockery
By RICK STROUD
Published November 7, 2005
TAMPA - If there was one humiliating image to take from Sunday's game, it was the end zone celebration by receiver Steve Smith.
After his 35-yard touchdown reception on the second play of the fourth quarter, the Carolina Panthers' star sliced an imaginary cutlass through the air at Raymond James Stadium.
The issue had long since been decided in the Bucs' 34-14 loss before Smith dueled like Captain Jack Sparrow, but his point was made anyway.
This was the Bucs' first look of the season at a team with a winning record, at a team from the NFC South, at a team contending for a playoff berth.
The view was enough to shiver the timbers.
Smith caught his ninth touchdown of the season. Stephen Davis rushed for two touchdowns, and cornerback Chris Gamble returned an interception 61 yards in the Panthers' fifth straight win.
Gamble's interception on the fourth play of the second half was the worst mistake of the afternoon by quarterback Chris Simms, ruining his second start of the season.
It also sealed the third loss in four games for Tampa Bay (5-3), which fell out of a first-place tie with Carolina (6-2) and Atlanta in the NFC South.
"We're not going to make excuses. There's a lot of teams around this league that are winning with young quarterbacks because they're playing better as a team," Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "Right now, we're just not playing well enough as a team to win. So we're not looking for excuses.
"Every man in the room is going to judge his responsibility and being accountable, and that's what's going to pull us out of this hole."
Simms certainly hasn't been able to do it. He completed 25 of 42 passes for 259 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown to Joey Galloway in the second quarter.
But Simms was intercepted twice, lost a fumble and was sacked five times.
This week, he wasn't the only goat. Rookie Cadillac Williams lost the first fumble of his career, and the Panthers scored 17 points off those turnovers.
"We just got beat by a better football team," said Simms, who played well in the first half, going 10-of-13 for 121 yards and a touchdown. "We actually moved the ball decently on offense throughout the day and made it a 10-7 game. We kind of hurt ourselves with penalties. Then we come out in the second half. We start driving the ball. I throw a pick for a touchdown, and that put our team in a real tough position from that spot.
"I felt a lot better this week. Throwing the ball, we had some success early and kind of just hurt ourselves. Then again, with a great defense like that, you get down 34-7 or 24-7, it's going to be tough."
While Simms showed some improvement, the formula for beating the Bucs on Sunday wasn't much different than the one used last week by the 49ers.
Carolina shut down the Bucs' rushing attack, holding Williams to 29 yards on 11 carries in his second game since returning from a foot injury. Tampa Bay finished with 44 yards and trailed 34-7 after Smith's touchdown.
Williams, who set an NFL rookie record by rushing for 434 yards in his first three games, has been held to 62 yards in 35 attempts in his past three. It won't get easier. Left tackle Anthony Davis injured the medial collateral ligament of his left knee Sunday, and his status is unknown. He will have an MRI exam this morning.
Williams, whose longest run was 7 yards Sunday, can't explain the slump.
"It's hard to say. Teams are better prepared," Williams said. "They walk the eighth man down, and as an offense, we just aren't getting it done as a whole. We're not making the right read. People aren't staying on their blocks; different things like that. We're in a slump right now, but we're definitely going to come out of it."
The Bucs also aren't getting any big plays from their defense.
For the second straight week, Tampa Bay's defense failed to produce a turnover and couldn't make a stop on third down when needed. After Galloway's 12th touchdown in his past 13 games, the Bucs trailed 10-7. But later in the quarter, Jake Delhomme connected with Ricky Proehl on a 62-yard pass on third and 10 to set up Davis' 1-yard touchdown run.
Smith, who entered as the NFL's leader in catches and yards, had five catches for 106 yards.
"Everybody is behind each other," receiver Michael Clayton said. "No heads are hung low. This is the NFL, and this happens. But by no means does this mean the season is over with. I think one of the biggest things for me, and I'll speak for a lot of guys, we don't want this to get back to thinking about last year.
"We have a great opportunity to stay on top. We're one game away now. But we're in a position to know that when we're on the right page, we can get the job done."