There was plenty to celebrate in the corner of the Panthers' locker room until reserve defensive end Kavika Pittman hobbled in on crutches. "They got me on a high-low [chop block]," he told his teammates. "My left ACL [and MCL] tore, and I'm done for the year. They could've stopped at my hip; they didn't have to go after my knee." With that, the mood in the room turned dark as several Panthers accused the Bucs of dangerous play. "You don't mess with people's careers like that," defensive end Mike Rucker said. "They'd do dirty things, and you'd want to retaliate."
Said Bucs cornerback Rhonde Barber, "There's not a lot of love between these two teams. The rivalry is going to be a hot one for a long time."
After a lifeless first half that ended with Carolina leading 6-0, the penalty flags started flying. In the third quarter alone, the Bucs were called for seven penalties, including four personal fouls, that cost them 70 yards. For the game the teams combined for 33 infractions totaling 288 yards. "Once [the Bucs] saw it was a dogfight, late blows started flying, fights started happening, high-lows, cheap shots," said Buckner. "This is a rivalry now."
Eagles' McNabb Off the Mark
One veteran scout who has watched both of Philadelphia's regular-season games—losses to the Bucs and the Patriots—had this to say about struggling quarterback Donovan McNabb, who has completed 45.1% of his attempts and has a passer rating of 41.4: "By far his biggest problem is accuracy. He's never been very accurate, but his passes are so far off now, it's scary. It's unbelievable to me because he's played so much yet he looks so uncomfortable in the pocket, as if he has no confidence in himself or his receivers, who get no separation. You see him on the TV close-ups, and he looks beyond frustrated, like he's totally defeated. [Coach] Andy Reid has a huge problem on his hands."
...At halftime of the Bengals-Raiders game, in which he caught eight passes for 131 yards, Cincinnati wideout Chad Johnson walked up to Jerry Rice and asked if the two of them could get together sometime to talk about the finer points of receiving. Rice agreed, but after the game he said, "Watching him today, he doesn't need that much [help]." The brash Johnson, a second-round draft choice in 2001, is the franchise receiver me Bengals thought they were getting when they took Peter Warrick with the fourth pick in the 2000 draft.