Run defense steps up against Panthers
The Buccaneers defense wanted to make a statement Sunday that things are different this time around. Mission accomplished.

The NFL's most porous rush defense in 2011 treated Carolina's ground game with disdain in a 16-10 triumph that restored some pride to a battered unit.

"Ten yards rushing that's Pop Warner,'' said Bucs defensive back Ahmad Black after the Panthers were limited to an average of 0.8 yards in their 13 rush attempts. "Give credit to the guys up front.''

Everyone played a role as the Bucs tied the franchise mark for fewest rushing yards allowed, previously set against Washington in 1994. The Panthers boasted the league's third-ranked ground game last season (150.5 yards) and led the NFL by averaging 5.4 yards per attempt.

Although running back Jonathan Stewart was sidelined by an ankle injury, the Panthers still had DeAngelo Williams, newcomer Mike Tolbert and quarterback Cam Newton in their backfield. "If I wasn't sitting right now, I'd be bowing down to salute our defense,'' said Bucs left tackle Donald Penn. "Our fans haven't seen a defense like that since the Super Bowl year.''

Newton's five runs generated only four yards, but he was downright productive compared to Williams, who was held to minus-1 yard in six carries. "Everyone was where they were supposed to be,'' said defensive end Michael Bennett. "We were very disciplined today against the run and when they threw, Cam never got to set his feet.''

With safeties Ronde Barber and Mark Barron providing solid run support, Carolina couldn't find open lanes. The Bucs registered nine tackles for loss, led by middle linebacker Mason Foster with three.

"Our first priority in any game is stopping the run and we got that done today,'' Foster said. "We had guys doing their jobs, not trying to do someone else's job, and that's what you need to succeed in this league everybody staying in their gaps.''

After finishing with five tackles on his historic day, Barber paid tribute to Tampa Bay's stifling rush defense. "When you can limit that team, which completely dominated us on the ground last year, to just 10 yards rushing, you know you've done something right,'' Barber said.

About the writer
Ira Kaufman has long been both a great writer for The Tampa Tribune and friend to the Bucs UK and BUCPOWER.COM. He writes on all sports for the paper but during the NFL season offers his stories on not just the Buccaneers, but also the NFL in general.