Join with me my WhatTheBucers, what a difference a win makes!
We talked about it after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
shat the bed stumbled against the Rams (who, as it turns out, aren’t half bad). Lose a game you’re expected to win, you gotta win one you’re expected to lose. The Bucs lost that opportunity after being taken out to the woodshed by the defending Super Bowl champions. The next opportunity was Monday Night, against the hated Panthers, the defending NFC Champions – a team that had owned our beloved bumbling pirates of pewter for three long years.
ESPN was certain they were going to see a blowout. Suzy Kolber and Steve Young joked about it being a mismatch. Randy Moss wore a Panthers hoodie (with the sleeves cut off). They had multiple puff pieces on the Panthers to one measly little segment with Jameis.
Frankly, I’m not suprised this was the lowest rated Monday Night game since ESPN got the package in 2006. Frankly, they pretty much told everyone this game was going to suck and suck it did, but not in the way everyone expected.
What I Got Right
I commended Coach Koetter on his play calling Monday night. While everyone else nailed him for going ultra-conservative, I thought it was a brilliant plan for two reasons – first – his defense was depleted, starting guys that a couple weeks ago were looking into options in the Arena League and the CFL. His quarterback was giving up the football like he was Oprah, “You get a takeaway…and you get a takeaway…EVERYONE gets a takeway!”
The Panthers defense wins games for them. Last week against Atlanta was more of an aberration. Before that game, they had one of the top pass defenses in the league. Then the Falcons went wild and suddenly everyone was going on about what’s wrong with Carolina’s defense.
Carolina’s defense wasn’t what got them to 1-3 (now 1-4). They weren’t forcing turnovers like they used to and their offense wasn’t putting up points thanks to those takeaways like they did last season. When you live by the takeaway, you die by the takeaway.
Koetter was not going to let them feast on takeaways. So call it conservative. Call it hiding the quarterback. I call it a winning strategy. It harkened back to Dungyball, keep the game close, win it in the fourth quarter. The Bucs defense came up with two huge takeaways in the final stanza that really won it for the Bucs. It was ugly. I’m sure it bored a national TV audience to tears, but it got the job done. In the end, they don’t ask how, they just ask how many.
What I Got Wrong
I chided Koetter for his conservative play calling in the two minute drive. Honestly, after watching it again, I think he called it perfectly. Now, it would have helped if Jacquizz Rodgers wouldn’t have run out of bounds on second down but he did. Then on third down, Koetter called a play action pass out of 13 personnel and the Panthers failed to cover the one wide receiver on the field, Mike Evans.
The Bucs got the one first down they desperately needed and Koetter allowed the two minute offense to flow. Again, being mindful of the clock and his exhausted defense, he needed to make sure if the Bucs had to give up this football, Carolina wouldn’t have any time or time outs to do anything with it.
Ron Rivera burned through his timeouts on third downs, the Bucs kept converting.
Tampa Bay got the ball at their own 14 yard line with 1:49 left on the clock and moved down the field against one of the top defenses in the league – running it. I think it stunned the Panthers, Jameis contributed when he had to and then it was all up to Aguayo to put it through the wickets. I believe him when he said it wasn’t a lack of confidence in his quarterback. It was much more time and situation.
Koetter worked the clock to a point where the Bucs were either going to win or head to overtime.
Oh man, does Monday Night Football miss Mike Tirico. Nothing against Sean McDonough, he’s a good enough announcer, he’s just ridiculously boring. Tirico always seemed to know the right times to interject a little excitement into the broadcast and he could actually set up Gruden with some great talking points. Their conversations during the games were always interesting. McDonough I don’t think does a good enough job of that. Even in the pre-planned segments, he’s a bit low energy and its up to Gruden to kind of pep up the telecast with his personality.
Gruden has improved so much from when he first started the gig. He used to be a pom-pom waver, never criticising an organization or a coach, but now that he’s settled into the Monday Night gig, he let’s the daggers fly. “Jameis Winston simply cannot attempt that throw! It’s a Cover 2 with the safety crashing in. He can’t force that in there. It should have been intercepted!”
The What the Buc Moment of the Game
While Adventures with Roberto is a strong candidate, I believe the defense deserves this because they are truly the reason the Bucs won this game. Brent Grimes made two plays on Carolina’s last trip into the red zone. The first – he tackled Fozzie Whittaker a yard away from the pylon. If he doesn’t make that play, the Panthers are up 21-14. Then, the very next play, he baited Panthers QB Derek Anderson into forcing it to his main target Greg Olsen, skied for the interception and held onto it when he came down.
It was a season saving interception, folks. Season saving.
Around the Dirty South
Okay, fine. The Atlanta Falcons just might be for real. Of course, the Bucs helped them out a little by banging up Trevor Simeian and forcing Denver to start wet-behind-the-ears rookie Paxton Lynch (man, why couldn’t he be that scattershot against the Bucs last week?), but Atlanta put together a superb gameplan and really took it to the Broncos. It was an impressive performance. The Saints managed to lose to the bye week. No wait, nothing bad happened to them so I guess it was a draw. You know what happened Monday Night. The Panthers out-sucked the Bucs to fall to 1-4.
Were the Bucs Really as Bad as They Looked?
Yes, they won, but it was an ugly way of doing it. After the game, the same pundits so certain of a Panthers victory went on about how Carolina blew it rather than how the Bucs found a way to win it. Look, a lot of the same things that got Tampa Bay routinely beat were there. Terrible penalties that robbed scoring opportunities. Aguayo being Erratico. Jameis overthrowing open receivers. The Bucs defense wilting in the red zone and not realizing that, “Hey, maybe we should cover that number 88.”
They had more injuries to a team that was on its third string running back (who wasn’t even on the team in Week One) and starting street free agents on their defensive line.
This time though, they found a way to win on the road on Monday Night Football against a team that had beaten them six straight times. When the Panthers went up 14-6, 620 WDAE’s Tom Krasniqi said what we were all thinking, “It’s over, McMahon.”
But Jameis got the Bucs right back in it with a big touchdown score, the defense somehow found a second wind and shut out the Panthers the rest of the way…and Aguayo finally kicked one down the middle.
This team is 2-3, with a crucial bye week and could see a flood of talent they sorely miss return for a very winnable road game in San Francisco. This one gutty little win against a fading Panthers team could be exactly what the Bucs need to turn this season around.
DLT heads to the Bahamas! Yes, it’s the bye week. We all needed it and frankly, I expect a completely different Bucs team when we all reconvene at the Ferg’s Channelside watch party on October 23rd.
Photo Courtesy of Buccaneers.com