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Originally published Monday, September 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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NFL Notebook | Bucs' Matt Bryant kicks away the tears

Matt Bryant choked back tears. A day after burying his 3-month-old son in Texas, the Tampa Bay kicker booted three field goals to help the...

TAMPA, Fla. — Matt Bryant choked back tears.

A day after burying his 3-month-old son in Texas, the Tampa Bay kicker booted three field goals to help the Buccaneers beat the Green Bay Packers 30-21 on Sunday.

"I don't know what I needed today," Bryant said. "It worked out OK. Could've been better, but given the circumstances it turned out OK."

Bryant's youngest son, Matthew Tryson, was found dead at home in Tampa on Wednesday. It will be several weeks before the kicker and his wife learn the cause of death.

Bryant didn't practice all week, and coach Jon Gruden left it up to him to decide if he would play.

"The biggest thing for me, I wanted to honor Tryson's name," Bryant said. "I mean, I don't think it was very fair for his life to end so short. This is the best way I believe I could get out and honor him. I miss him and wish he was here, but he was here with me. He helped out."

Bryant kicked field goals of 23 and 36 yards in the second quarter. His 24-yarder, with 2:26 to go, finished a six-minute drive and put the Bucs ahead for good, 23-21.

"Today was his day. It was all about Tryson for me. I talked with him, personally, in my head throughout the game. I just wanted to remind him that he's my baby boy and that he's with me all the time."

Titans start unfamiliar 4-0

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the Tennessee Titans ran off the field Sunday, they heard a familiar-sounding chant from a pocket of fans.

But instead of "Here we go Titans, here we go," it was "4 and 0 Titans, 4 and 0."

And that, of course, was unfamiliar. With a 30-17 win over the Vikings, the Titans improved to 4-0 for the first time in the 49-year history of the franchise. Two previous Oilers/Titans teams managed to win their first three only to lose the fourth. These Titans didn't stumble at the doorstep. They kicked the door down.

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"We are not a secret any more," safety Chris Hope said. "People might have taken us for granted before, but that won't be the case any more. Not to say we have a bull's-eye on us now because it's so early. But teams know we're for real. They won't underestimate us, that's for sure."

The Titans jumped on one of the NFC's most physical teams and didn't let up, closing out a September to remember. October might not be so pleasant.

Next Sunday the Titans travel to Baltimore, where they've had plenty of trouble over the years. After a bye week, they travel to Kansas City, which knocked off previously unbeaten Denver on Sunday.

"I think I heard Peyton Manning say it: Never take winning for granted," Titans return man Chris Carr said. "It is so difficult to win one football game in the NFL; I learned that playing in Oakland. But now, being 4-0, I am not doing jumping jacks. Nobody around here is. We need to get another one and another one and another one, because things can change really fast."

Smith reconciles with Lucas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Steve Smith celebrated his first touchdown of the season with an emphatic spike that sent the ball into the stands. His Carolina Panthers teammates then watched as he frantically tried to retrieve the ball from a fan.

"I was trying to tell him, 'Hey, don't, just give it to him,' " Jake Delhomme said. "And he said, 'No, I need to do something with it.' "

Nearly two months after he broke teammate Ken Lucas' nose with a sucker punch, Smith handed the ball to Lucas, a former Seahawk, on the sideline, perhaps the final chapter of the ugly training-camp incident as the cohesive Panthers celebrated a 24-9 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

"I was going to congratulate him on the touchdown and he said, 'This is for you,' " Lucas said. "He took the high road, and that showed a lot about him as a person."

Notes

• Atlanta stuck around early as referee Ed Hochuli found himself in the middle of another controversy. Two weeks after he mistakenly ruled a fumble an incomplete pass that helped Denver rally to beat San Diego, Hochuli flagged Julius Peppers for roughing the passer, wiping out Matt Ryan's interception that was returned by Richard Marshall for a touchdown.

Hochuli announced Peppers made a helmet-to-helmet hit, but replays appeared to show Peppers hit Ryan with his shoulder first just as he released the ball.

"I threw my shoulder into him, but I guess my helmet [hit his]," Pepper said.

• Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was fined $25,000 by the NFL for publicly criticizing Hochuli. It is the first time that Jones, who has owned the team 20 seasons, has been fined by the NFL. Jones didn't talk to reporters in the locker room Sunday after the Cowboys' 26-24 loss to Washington.

Carson Palmer's sore elbow leaves the winless Cincinnati Bengals with another major worry.

Palmer sat out a 20-12 loss to the Cleveland Browns because of inflammation in his passing elbow, an injury the team didn't reveal until late in the week. When he'll be able to play is hard to say.

"It's not bad," said Palmer, who was listed as the emergency quarterback and watched from the sideline wearing a cap. "I'll probably be able to prepare this week."

It's a major setback but not a surprise for the Bengals, who are 0-4 for the first time in six years. They've had a hard time protecting Palmer all year.

• St. Louis' Torry Holt had four receptions for 65 yards and has 820 for his career, passing former Seahawk Steve Largent for 16th place.

• Carolina K John Kasay's third-quarter field goal was the 366th of his career, tying him for ninth all-time with Norm Johnson.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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UPDATE - 07:23 AM
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