CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers tried to pass early, and it didn't really work.
So needing a spark, the Panthers did what they did best, and it succeeded against a Tampa Bay defense that had stopped everyone else. The Panthers simply decided to run, run and run some more.
The Panthers showed their hand in the first half of their 38-23 victory in the second quarter with an eight-play, 73-yard drive that featured just one pass for 7 yards.
The rest were runs, most of them starting inside. Running back DeAngelo Williams broke out of a thunderous tackle attempt by Buccaneers safety Tanard Jackson just past the line of scrimmage and rolled for a 40-yard gain, then slipped out of the grasp of all-world linebacker Derrick Brooks to convert a key third down. The long run put him over 1,000 for the season. That Jonathan Stewart scored the 2-yard touchdown behind their no-receiver heavy package didn't matter as much as the precedent the Panthers set.
They finished with 300 rushing yards, on a defense that was giving up 95.4 yards per game, and the one that held them to 40 yards in the first meeting earlier this year.
Carolina more than made up for that, with Williams and Stewart both topping 100 yards, the second time this season they both hit triple digits. Williams finished with 186 and Stewart 115.
The Panthers came in wanting to run, and it was evident from the start. Knowing Tampa Bay wanted to commit a safety to doubling wide receiver Steve Smith, they figured there would be opportunities to run with just seven defenders in the box.
But the Bucs entered the game ninth in the league in rushing, having given up just one rushing touchdown all year.
Stewart's touchdown (the first of three) was the Panthers' 20th on the ground for the year, extending the franchise record set last week in Green Bay. The previous best was 17 rushing touchdowns set in 2005.
The Panthers didn't even resort to trickery. They lined up in the Wildcat formation for the first play, with Williams taking a direct snap, but for the most part their running game was straightforward.
• COMMISSIONER VISITS: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was on hand Monday night, saying he had planned to be here anyway, but came in early to visit Panthers owner Jerry Richardson in the hospital.
Richardson remains at Carolinas Medical Center after being re-admitted last week. He had surgery last month to implant a pacemaker defibrillator, but he still felt poorly so went in for more tests.
• BRIDGES HELD OUT: Backup tackle Jeremy Bridges was held out of Monday's game after being arrested the day before. Bridges was placed on the inactive list, and team officials hesitated to say whether there would be further punishment.
General manager Marty Hurney said the team was still "gathering information," indicating that they hadn't decided yet what to do. While inactive players generally stand on the sidelines in street clothes, Bridges was not here.
The 28-year-old reserve, who had started four games this season, turned himself into police Sunday night after an incident the evening before.
While having dinner with his wife at Villa Antonio in the Ballantyne area, Bridges sprayed champagne inside the restaurant. He was asked to leave, and did, but words were exchanged outside between Bridges, a female patron and the restaurant's staff.
A warrant was issued for his arrest on two misdemeanor counts of assault-non-aggressive force and one count of communicating threats. His attorney said Sunday he denied shoving anyone, and planned to plead not guilty.
Bridges was suspended two games by the team after being arrested for assault the night before training camp opened in 2007. He was convicted last November, and in March he rescinded his appeal upon receiving assurance there would be no more punishment from the league.
The NFL generally defers to teams in such cases, but Bridges' second arrest could bring punishment from the league under the conduct policy.
"It's part of our policy," Goodell said when asked about the second offense. "We were very clear, a first offense is different than multiple offenses. The policy considers that issue. So it is a factor."
Goodell said he just learned of the incident Monday morning, and didn't want to say more until he knew more.