Rookie battle
Two of the league's top first-year players matched up Sunday as Bucs RB Doug Martin and Carolina LB Luke Kuechly went at it for almost four hours on an overcast, 53-degree day in Charlotte.

While Martin shook off his costly turnover and led the winning drive in overtime, finishing with 138 yards in 24 carries, Kuechly registered 10 tackles and recovered Martin's fumble, which was caused by a jarring hit from LB Thomas Davis.

"He's got a low base,'' Kuechly said of Martin, one first-round pick saluting another. "Every time you get a running back that's low with a stocky build, he's tough to bring down. He's tough to see behind linemen and he'll pop out on you. In a hole, you won't be able to see him come out. He's powerful, he moves well and he's quick.''

Kuechly had been averaging 15 stops per game since moving into the middle for injured Jon Beason in Week 5. "We played pretty well through most of the game,'' Kuechly said, "but at the end we have to be able to tighten up and get off the field.''

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.