TAMPA – Jon Gruden bristled at the suggestion that he may have set Tampa Bay up for failure in the playoffs by taking a cautious approach to the last two weeks of the regular season.
The Bucs (9-7) dropped their finale, 31-23, to the Carolina Panthers yesterday, resting most of their starters in hopes of opening the postseason against the Giants with as healthy a roster as possible.
DeAngelo Williams rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns to help Carolina give quarterback Vinny Testaverde, retiring for what he says is the final time, a nice send-off. Tampa Bay, which clinched its division with two weeks remaining, has lost two straight and three of four overall. Gruden insisted the NFC South champions have not diminished their chances of succeeding in the playoffs.
“If we were playing New England on a national televised game, we might have taken a different approach,” Gruden said. “No disrespect to Carolina and all this other stuff because it’s irrelative right now. Whatever your record is is your record when you get to the playoffs.”
Matt Moore threw for 174 yards and two touchdowns in his third pro start for Carolina (7-9), which allowed the retiring 44-year-old Testaverde to take the last snap – a knee – in the same city where he began his NFL career in 1987.
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