Steve Wyche reports from the Buccaneers-Panthers game. Check back later for his complete column.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Giants may have Earth, Wind and Fire, but the Carolina Panthers have Scary and Scarier.
Panthers running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams ran over Tampa Bay like the Buccaneers took their lunch money en route to a 38-23 Carolina victory on Monday night. The Panthers now sit alone atop the NFC South. The tandem combined for 301 yards and four TDs in a trucking like nothing the Buccaneers had seen or anyone else had witnessed against Tampa Bay’s monstrous defense.
The tandem ran between, by and over the Buccaneers and into the consciousness of any team thinking Carolina won’t be something to deal with in the playoffs. Unless the wheels completely fall off, the Panthers are getting into the postseason, and they might be doing it on their home field, where they improved to 7-0.
The Panthers moved to the top of the NFC South at 10-3 while the Bucs, at 9-4, are the leaders in the wild-card race. Playoff scenarios can come later, though — thinking about what Stewart and Williams did in helping Carolina overcome three turnovers was nothing short of awesome.
And while the running game was the story, we can’t overlook Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith, who had his third straight game over 100 yards. In a season when upstarts like Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings seem to be moving fixtures like Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt down the list, Smith remains one of the best receivers in the league.