Head Coach Jon Gruden
(on the game) "Let me just say, we're very happy to have won. I'm proud of our team. We beat a great team today on the road and I'll answer any questions that I can. We thank Anthony McFarland, he strained his hamstring and we are concerned about that but I can update you later."
(on if the team sent a message to the league with its win) "Man, I don't mean to send a message. There are plenty of people that can do this for us. We're just interested in getting better and playing good and that's what we did today. It was going to take a collective effort in all three phases to win here and I think we did that."
(on the broken losing streak against Carolina) "I've been tryin' to acknowledge that. I really don't have a feeling about the game we missed an extra point on three years ago. That didn't come up this week. We struggle kicking field goals against Carolina. We lost some slug fests. We lost five in a row, but now they've got a one game losing streak and you can ask them about the streak."
(on Matt Bryant kicking in the game with an injured hamstring) "We made that decision in pre-game. He kicked the ball good. We didn't ask him to strain himself on the kickoffs. We realize with the wind he would be OK kicking with it, we were gonna strategic kick when we had to go against it, but we needed his trajectory, his get-off times, we needed him to come through today and he did that."
(on sometimes having a hard time running the ball in Carolina "Hey, everybody has a hard time running the ball here. I know Mike Rucker didn't play. I know that hurts their front, but, you know, McFarland didn't play either. It's a credit to Cadillac Williams. He made some great cuts. I thought Chris Simms really made some really good changes and our guys blocked pretty darn good up front."
(on having a field position advantage most of the day) "Yeah, we had good field position. We took advantage of it a couple times and a couple times we weren't so good, but it was an effort I'm proud of and ready to go on to the next road game."
(on CB Ronde Barber) "Well, he's a legend now. He's the only guy in the history of this league to do what he's done. I just hope he gets the national credit, the notoriety that a player of this magnitude deserves. I mean, twenty sacks and twenty picks - never been done in the history of football [by a cornerback]. That ought to qualify for some positive ink."
(on Barber's interception) "He makes a great instinctive play and certainly the break on the ball is just Ronde Barber at his best. He plays the ball. He's not there to tip it down and knock it away, he's there to play it and tip it to himself and intercept it. I just wish he would have scored. We had a couple of jail breaks on Mark Jones' return where the punter got him. I thought Ronde had a chance to create his own offense himself."
(on if it was important to set a tone early) "Oh, it's important. It's important to score when you play Carolina. It's hard to do that, but to get a 7-0 lead. We weren't as aggressive maybe as some people think, but we got a 10 point lead – made it a two-score game and our defense got thirsty after that."
(on WR Steve Smith) "He's good. He might be as good a player as I've seen. They can credit him. He's hard to handle and they get creative with him in terms of how they use him. He made a couple of big plays. He's just a magnificent performer."
(on third-down conversions) "I can't tell you how big that was. I believe we had over 10 3rd down conversions. They stopped us in a couple of situations, but we converted some long yardage 3rd downs, some short yardage 3rd downs and we did it repeatedly in a game that we needed."
CB Brian Kelly
(on Steve Smith being Jake Delhomme's primary target) "We knew that coming in. We knew Jake was really looking to get him the ball. But we didn't change what we do too much."
(on Ronde Barber's interception) "That was huge, that was huge. They were in a driving position late in the game, trying to get points on the board, and he stepped up and made a huge play. You could tell it took a lot of breath out of them."
(on if this win is bigger than others) "Right now, at this point in time, they're all big. These are December games and they're going to put you in a position where you want to be late in the year. But to come here and win this game against Carolina…we didn't look they beat us five times and we haven't beaten them, it was just a big game. We had to come in here and get a win, and we did."
(on why this game was different from the first one) "You know what, they made the plays and we didn't. Today, we made the plays and they didn't. The scheme was pretty much the same for both sides. They were running some of the same plays and we were running the same coverages. We just executed better today."
QB Chris Simms
(on finally beating Carolina) "It was great. We were in the same circumstances they were in last week against Atlanta. It was a big win for us today. They're a great team; we're not taking anything away from them. I know a lot of guys on this team felt a little disrespected. Everybody was picking the Panthers and really kind of overlooking us, so we came out here with something to prove today."
(on the team getting more confident) "We just played a steady game. We didn't make any mistakes. The offensive line was unbelievable today, pass-protecting and of course running the ball. When you have 24 back there, running the way he is right now, it makes us tough to beat."
(on having a different offensive approach against Carolina this time) "We did a lot of two-tight end, two-back in that game, but the kind of game it became when we got down early, of course we're going to start spreading out and passing the ball a little bit more. But we've been doing a heavy dose of that all year long. It's no surprise. We've kind of just been lining up in some formations and saying, 'Here we come, just stop us.' That's a credit to our offensive line again, just the way they've been playing."
(on why the offense is improving) "I think we're an extremely close team on both sides of the ball, especially offensively. We hang out a lot, go out to dinner, play videogames, whatever. That's really the only thing I can put my hand on, other than that we work hard. But everybody works hard in this league."
(on converting so many third downs) "That's pretty great against this defense. Again, in the passing game we weren't anything spectacular today but we made the plays when we had to. I feel like I've been saying that for the last four weeks. [We have] a guy like Ike Hilliard in the slot, a very patient, wily veteran out there just making the plays when we need them. It was a big day for us."
(on if the short passes to the outside were setting something else up) "It really wasn't setting up much. We were just throwing a little six-yard hitch route out there. We threw that a few times, and another little combination where we just run a little five-yard out with a flat route. Nothing that they haven't seen before, just a good way to get three or four yards and put your offense in a good second-and-six, second-and-seven situation."
(on trying to get short third downs) "We have tremendous respect for their defense, especially the defensive line they have. With their defensive ends you don't want to be in third-and-10 too many times because that really plays into their hands. They know we're passing and they're pretty tough to block when they're coming off the edge."
(on the Bucs' position in the playoff race) "We realize we've got a lot of work to do. We have a big one coming up next week with New England. Destiny's in our hands, though, and we realize that. We're just going to continue to play. We've got two big ones at the end of the year against conference teams and we're just going to keep plugging away, keep doing what we're doing and not let too many outside influences creep into our brain."
(on why he says destiny is in the Bucs' hands) "Because if we keep winning, hey, you don't know what can happen. All we can do is worry about ourselves. Chicago lost today, and I'm sure we'll need a few breaks down the road, but as long as we keep winning and handling our business we should be in a good position when the season ends."
(on Ronde Barber) "The ultimate pro. He's one of those guys, you walk into the DB room and he's sitting there watching film. You walk in another coach's office and he's sitting there on the computer watching film. He's just a tremendous worker who can really play the game. He just has great feel out there. He's a guy you can play in the slot, you can play outside and if he gets his hands on the ball he's going to pick it off. He's awesome."
(on how happy the team is about Barber's major milestone) "He's one of our leaders, so we're happy for him every week, especially after last week – three interceptions. I didn't really know about this 20-interception, 20-sack milestone, but that's pretty impressive."
S Jermaine Phillips
(on making big hits and getting the win) "Coach Mike Tomlin told us that technique and finishing tackles was going to be key for us. Knowing that Carolina was a physical team we just had to come out and be more physical than they were."
(on keeping Steve Smith from scoring a touchdown) "It was just a play where he made a play. Dexter [Jackson] had a play on the ball, but Steve Smith being the receiver he is just caught the ball and was going down the field. I was thinking, 'If I can get him out of bounds and give our defense a chance to stop him again, maybe we can hold them to a field goal or no score at all.' And that's what happened."
(on the defense coming to play) "It was a big game, man. We knew it was going to be a playoff atmosphere, for first place in the division, and we just came out here ready to go. We just wanted to let them know that we were ready to play and it wasn't going to be like last time."
DT Chris Hovan
(on the defense getting the job done) "We had key players make key plays today. The hit by Will Allen on the receiver, and then of course Ronde Barber, a Hall of Famer, was making plays again today. When afforded opportunities, we made those plays."
(on stopping the run) "Each guy had an assignment to do, we had to get in our gaps. They exploited us early but we were able to calm down and get back to what we were doing."
(on the importance of winning in Carolina) "It shows that our team can handle adversity. We had to come up here under tough conditions and it was a must-win game for us. We had key guys step up and make big plays, and we're going home with the lead now."
(on the defensive line being tight-knit) "It's just other guys making the most of their opportunities. Jon Bradley stepped up and was key for us today. Ellis Wyms keeps going out there and making plays. I can't say enough about Ellis and our defensive ends. We have the best right end in the league in Simeon [Rice]. When guys had to step up, they did."
(on being in a good position in the playoff race) "I just think that if we keep winning games we don't have to look back. We get to go play the champs at home; what would you rather ask for? We get to go to New England next week. We'll get in another good week of work and get ready for the champs."
RB Cadillac Williams
(on how important it was to run the ball well today) "It was very important to run the ball because of the kind of defense they have. They have two great defensive ends and we knew if we just came in and dropped back and passed it would put a lot of heat on our offensive line. So we wanted to come out early and establish the run, and the offensive line did a great job."
(on setting the tone) "Right, we did. As an offense I think we set the tone. I got that early score, and you couldn't have drawn it up any better on that touchdown."
(on what this win says to the rest of the league) "I think it kind of showed everybody that we are for real. We are a close-knit team, and we're just looking for a chance. Today's win kind of helped us, but we know we have three more tough games to go. But this put us in a good situation."
CB Ronde Barber
(on loading up to stop the run) "We didn't play a lot of eight-in-the-box, to tell you the truth. Early in the game – actually the first play of the game – was one of the few times in the first half we played eight-in-the-box and Steve [Smith] made me miss on the outside and got the 20-yard game. Our plan going into this game was to get back to the Cover Two, the fundamentals of the Cover Two, a lot of pressure up front, making sure tackles in the running game and really limiting Steve Smith's opportunity to get one-on-one matchups. He's shown he can be a terror with an individual matchup out there and we didn't want to put ourselves in that situation."
(on his interception) "I think it was a Z-Option. The tight end crossed in front of me and Ricky Proehl had an option to go in or out. He kind of set down. To tell you the truth, I'm kind of surprised that Jake threw that ball. I was right on his hip. I found a way to get my hand on it, it stayed up in there and I caught it. It ended up being a game-changing play for us because Chris and Cadillac went down and made it 20-3 on that drive and ate up a bunch of the clock. Those are the things that good teams do to win games at the end of football games."
(on getting his 20th sack) "Yeah, it's nice. It's been a long time coming. I've been talking to some of you guys about it for a couple years now. I kind of had a feeling that it would come in a two-minute situation. For the offensive linemen, it's a little hectic to find their blocking schemes, so you just beat one guy and you've got a free shot to the quarterback."
(on if he's had more or less pass-rushing opportunities lately) "As I've evolved as a player, our whole package – whether it's our zone package or our zone-blitz package – has kind of evolved, too. We've drawn up some stuff over the years to get me to the quarterback. It's really a credit to Monte [Kiffin], the secondary coach and the linebacker coach to give me an opportunity to wreak havoc in there, and it's something that I enjoy doing."
(on why he is good at rushing the passer) "I don't know. I wish I knew. It's something that I like to do. When I first got into this league, playing in there [in the slot] was the only way I was getting on the football field. I had to find a way to make my niche there before I turned into the player that I am now. I'm glad I am. I don't think anybody else plays the position like I do."
(on if the Panthers have had an edge on the Bucs in recent games in terms of physical play) "Yeah, I think they have, especially on their defense. We talk about out-playing our opponent's defense every week, and the past five times we've played these guys we definitely haven't done that. Without a doubt, I'd say we did that this time. I think that's even more of a credit to our young quarterback and our young running back to control that game. To tell you the truth, in the fourth quarter those guys won that football game for us."
(on becoming the first 20/20 corner) "It's been a long time coming, like I said. It's been in the back of my head. Actually, it's been in the front of my head, I'm not going to lie. The list is short, and a lot of those guys are Hall of Famers. It's an honor definitely for myself, my teammates, the coaches, the organization. It's special."
DE Simeon Rice
(on the win) "At this point, everything is important. Your chips are stacked pretty high. The favor is really starting to be in our corner. We really grew up today. Every game, one game means so much more. So you can create a story on each game, every week, every Sunday. I think just for the fact that we accomplished what we've accomplished and won the tournament, this sets the tone that let's us know…not a tone for earlier this year, but it sets a tone for whatever is coming that we are prepared for anything."
(on Ronde Barber's accomplishments) "That's big time. He came on big time. He's stepping up right when you need him to right at the right time. He's made a lot of big plays at the right time. They are not just obsolete plays. They are crucial. That plays that much more of a factor. That's what he's all about."
LB Derrick Brooks
(on the Bucs' playing a complete game) "We didn't have any penalties today and that's been one of the big things when playing Carolina in the past. Most games there's been lots of penalties. Another thing, we didn't turn the ball over. It's December football and most teams that are going to win the turnover battle are going to win games in December."
(on winning in December) "We're just humbly going about our business and we don't need to do any talking or say anything. We just need to show up on Saturday where ever we have to go and play football. I think in due time we'll get what we deserve. Right now, obviously, this win was very huge for us. We came in a stayed to our game plan and did the things we needed to do to win and we accomplished most of them and we won."
(on the playoff picture) "The past couple years it has depended on a lot of ifs, ands, its or buts. We are just going to take care of our own business and we'll get what we deserve."
(on the team's focus) "We're just real wired in and in tune right now. We came in very humbly and we're going to leave very humbly. We'll enjoy this win on the plane and get ready to go play the World Champs (next week against the New England Patriots)."
WR Michael Clayton
(on the keys to the game) "We had an open mindset that we could have the possibility of losing this game. One of the best things we did was start fast. When you come out like that, you can hush the crowd early and not allow them any momentum."
(on if it's always a tough game against Carolina) "We were physical. That's something that we wanted to do from the start. Playing in December, we talked about how we have to step it up a notch. This is a new team, a new atmosphere and new chemistry – everybody is revived. Everybody is full with it and we're working together and we can't ignore that or throw it away. At the end of the day, we want our opponent to say 'that was a helluva game. Those guys are tough.' Whether we win or lose, that's our goal, is for them to say that."
(on controlling their own fate in the division) "That means a lot. This organization has come a long way. I've been through a season where we were down and out. Going through that and then being a part of this, is something special. You can feel the chemistry. Everybody is bright eyed, there are smiles and there's no hesitation to get the work done. That's a positive feeling going into the stretch of the season."
Head Coach Jon Fox
(on the Panthers' effort) "We started out good. I thought we were ready to play. We went right down the field and missed a field goal. We kind of bummed around there for a while. At the end of it all, I thought the difference was our ineffectiveness and their effectiveness on third down."
(on Tampa Bay's defense) "They sat in their cover 2 and we weren't able to run the ball. They did a good job as far as stuffing the hole and taking away our run game."
(on third-down efficiency) "It's one game. We've been pretty good throughout the season. We've got to give them some credit. They had a lot riding on the game too. We've had some success against them and they came in and played better than we did."
(on trying to throw to Steve Smith) "The coverage dictates where the ball goes. The quarterback doesn't know who the ball is going to until the defense declares the coverage."
(on missing some scoring opportunities) "We had our opportunities. We had the ball down there and threw the interception. That's points off. We missed a field goal. That's points off. We moved the ball. We just didn't score points. They scored more than we did."
(on the Panthers' defense) "We didn't tackle as well as we have in the past. It's hard to create pressure on the quarterback when it's a run play. They ran the ball quite often. We weren't as effective as we needed to be. I saw a lot of missed tackles."
(on the Panthers' offense) "We weren't very effective. We ran it some on third down and we threw it some on third down. We weren't as effective as we need to be in a tough game."
QB Jake Delhomme
(on the game) "They came in and beat us, plain and simple. They played better than us today. We started off well. The first drive was nice. We were going. We got down there and didn't get any points off of it. We never got anything mustered after that. We were awful on third down today and I think that was the key. We were pathetic."
(on how the game unfolded) "We didn't make plays. We need to throw better, block better, run better, catch better. We need to play better. They are a sound football team. They just played better than us. Plays were there. We just weren't able to make them."
(on throwing to receivers other than Steve Smith) "One time I had Ricky Proehl open down the middle and I got hit right when I was trying to throw it. That would have been a huge play. I don't know how many times we threw the ball in the first half. We didn't have good field position in the first half. As an offense we need to create it sometimes."
(on Ronde Barber's interception) "He made a great play. I've got to take the blame for everything. I read Ricky Proehl perfect. I knew exactly what he was going to do. I threw the ball exactly where I wanted to throw it. The guy made a great play. He slid underneath Ricky. I thought it was a good play call and I thought I had it for the first right when I let it go. They play too and he made a great play."
(on if the Panthers suffered from an emotional hangover after the Atlanta win) "Absolutely not. We came out and went right down the field."
(on the state of the Panthers) "Let's remember we are 9-4. Don't lose sight of that. We didn't play a good game. We played against a good team who played well today. We need to go back to work. That happens in this business. We've got to go down and play New Orleans and they play us tough."
(on Carolina's running game) "We ran the ball extremely well the first drive. We went down the field. I'll know more after watching film. Collectively, offensively we need to play better. Putting up ten points, seven of them with under a minute left, can't get it done."
DE Al Wallace
(on the Bucs' offense) "They had a good game plan. When the ball is spit out, I don't care what kind of rush you have, you are not going to get there. That is not an excuse on our part, you still have to get some pressure on them and help out our secondary."
WR Steve Smith
(on the loss) "This was one that hurts the most. We had our destiny in our own hands. Unfortunately we did not take advantage of it. I cannot speak for the defense, but offensively, we've had better games, for myself and down to the whole offense. Those guys get paid and they are well-coached. We didn't capitalize on the opportunities that we did have. Now we put ourselves in a corner. Hopefully we can fight back and put ourselves back in a position to win. We didn't make enough plays this time. We were disappointing to our fans and ourselves. We've got to push forward."
(on third-down troubles) "Third down speaks for itself. We didn't capitalize. We didn't convert any. We were maybe 1-8."
(on the hit he took in the middle of the field) "I was going for the ball like I always do and got hit."
(on the Panthers missing opportunities) "Those two plays could have put us in a very good position to maybe cause some turnovers. We didn't capitalize on them. It showed in the score. If we don't score points, no matter who makes a play, offensively, we all get frustrated. We let ourselves down. We let our teammates down. We let our defense down."
WR Ricky Proehl
(on playing against an inspired Tampa Bay defense) "Make no mistake they're a great defense and I think they had a great game plan coming in for us this week and it's disappointing. Our opening drive we did a lot of things well. We ran the ball well but we didn't get any points out of the drive. Then, they seemed to make some adjustments and stop the run and they did lot things to stop the pass, too. My hat goes off to them. They made plays and we didn't."
(on the loss of offensive momentum after failed third down attempts) "We shot ourselves in the foot in a couple of times. We converted but then we had a penalty that knocked us back. You can't afford to make mistakes and have penalties against a great defense. You want to be in the third and two third and three position, but when you get in situations where you're third and long it makes things tough against a great defense."
(on the emotional level of the team today following last week's win) "It was such an emotional win last week, but we knew Tampa Bay was going to come in ready. They were in the same position we were in a week ago. We had beaten them five straight and we knew we were going to get their best today and we did. They rose to the occasion and we didn't."
S Mike Minter
(on the playoff race) "We're still in the mix. We're still there. We understand that. We understand that it's one game, and one loss, but we're making it hard. We've got to go out and take care of these next three weeks like it's the playoffs."
(on how the team moves on from here) "You wipe the slat clean and get ready for the next one, because it isn't getting any easier. New Orleans will be ready. They always play us hard and tough. We've got to do down there, so it doesn't get any easier and we understand that, but that's why you play the game. You want to be in these type situations to get it done. So, it's going to be critical that we come back next week."
(on if it was frustrating that the Bucs were able to convert so many third downs) "We knew it was going to be their game plan to get themselves in third and manageable situations. When you've got a quarterback like that that is not a veteran guy, you want to get him in situations where you can throw short passes and convert on third down and keep moving the chains. That's what they were doing early on. They threw that deep ball, I think, to just get us off of them. Then they started throwing quick game after that. Their running game was going pretty good too. That's the game plan."