TAMPA Fans of the losing team always complain about officiating. The replacement officials did miss a few calls. The officials they replaced tend to miss a few, too. Perhaps officials were intimidated by the 20,000 or so (my count) fans at Raymond James Stadium. There were times when they sounded like 21,000.
• You want a high point? Tampa Bay has the ball second and goal on the Carolina 1. Tailback Doug Martin, 5-9 and 215 pounds, is built to pick up a yard. Hes about to and then Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis turns acrobat and stuffs him for no gain. On the next play 250-pound Erik Lorig, a fullback-tight end, catches the ball with room to move. Davis, 235 pounds, brings him down.
There will come a time when Davis ceases to be the player who has come back from an unprecedented three ACLs in his right knee. But the time has not come yet. His tackle of Martin, however, had nothing to do with his injuries. Thats a fine play no matter who makes it.
• The Panthers ceded their stadium to the Democrats and left Charlotte Tuesday for their hotel in Sarasota, Fla., and the facilities at 450-acre IMG Academy. It was like training camp all over again, Spartanburg south. Players hung out there until Saturday. They got to know each other even better. They bonded.
A hint: If your marriage is in bad shape, and you and your spouse are looking to go away and bond, you might want to avoid Florida. The Panthers cant blame Sundays loss on their all-expense paid trip out of Charlotte. Maybe the change to their routine didnt hurt. But no way did it help.
• Ronde Barber, who picked off a deflected Cam Newton pass, is 37 years old. The Buccaneers took him in the 1997 draft. Atlantas Tony Gonzalez is the only other player taken that year who is still active. The Panthers took two players before Tampa Bay took Barber Rae Carruth (27th) and Mike Minter (56th).
• Walking into Raymond James Stadium Sunday was almost as dreary as walking into Bank of America Stadium in 2010. That was the season the Panthers won twice. Sunday, the sky was gray, the atmosphere was gray and the mood was gray except for the pirate ship. I like the pirate ship. Fans did perk up when the home team scored the games first 13 points. But many left early. Never felt the way an opening game is supposed to feel.