Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | Given a national stage, the Carolina Panthers made a pretty good case to be included among the NFL‘s top teams.

Running all over Tampa Bay with their emerging tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers seized control of the competitive NFC South with a 38-23 win over the Buccaneers on Monday night.

Williams rushed for a career-high 186 yards and two touchdowns, Stewart added 115 yards and two more scores and the Panthers set a team record for yards rushing for the second time in a month.

And this time it was against a team that came in having allowed only one rushing touchdown all season.

The Panthers (10-3) grabbed control of the division, moving one game ahead of the Buccaneers (9-4).

Carnell “Cadillac” Williams ran for a 4-yard touchdown late in the third quarter for Tampa Bay, and the Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers were tied at 17-17 heading into the fourth on Monday night.

Williams’ score followed long touchdown catches from Tampa Bay’s Antonio Bryant and Carolina’s Steve Smith in a matchup of the top teams in the NFC South. It came in the same stadium where he suffered a career-threatening knee injury just four games into last season, sidelining him for the rest of 2007 and the first 10 games of this year.

Last year, Williams was hurt after taking a hit from safety Chris Harris near the Panthers’ bench after an 18-yard run. The blow forced Williams backward as his right leg bent under him awkwardly, tearing the patellar tendon in his knee.

He looked healthy on his touchdown, bouncing a short run to the right side and into the end zone to tie it with 3:37 left in the third.

Bryant set up the score with a 39-yard catch, part of a huge day for the sixth-year veteran. He also had a 50-yard touchdown catch in the third and finished with 200 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches.

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