A Sigh of relief echoed across the bay as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Carolina Panthers 46-23. After getting run out of their own building last week, this game became a measuring stick. Not so much because of their opponent, but the ability of this team to rebound. After a rather rocky start Tampa exploded in the second half scoring 29 points. Not only did they show off their depth on offense, but showed their ability to rebound after a horrendous loss.
Another ok Start
After last weeks debacle the expectation was that the Bucs would come out flying and hopefully build an early lead. This was not the case as Tampa’s first drive ended with a turnover. Ronald Jones, who has trouble catching out of the backfield, coughed up the ball well inside Buccaneer territory. This set up a short field for Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers. After a 4th down conversion, Bridgewater would find a wide-open Colin Thompson in the endzone to give Carolina a early 7-0 lead. The Buccaneers would answer back with a tight-end touchdown of their own. After marching down the field, Tom Brady found Cameron Brate for a 5-yard TD.
However, Carolina would come right back. Bridgewater hit D.J Moore down the field for 38-yards. He went right back to Moore on a screen the net play who found the endzone to give Carolina a 14-7. Each team would trade field-goals to make it 17-10. Despite not having a bad start, trailing at the half of an important rebound game was not what the Bucs had in mind. This was not be as two of Tampa’s big guns would step up. Rob Gronkowski put the Bucs in goal-to-go with a 44-yard catch and tackle breaking run. Tom Brady then zipped a pass to a leaping Mike Evans for a 3-yard TD with just over a minute left in the half. Going into the room tied wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either. Although Carolina might be more talented than their record indicates, they are no better than a .500 team. Therefore going into the room tied added a little unnecessary drama.
Bucs Sail Away and a Sigh of Relief
The Drama would not last long and the nervous chatter became a sigh of relief. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers exploded in the second half. The first drive seemed to follow the script of the first half. Tampa marched down the field, only to have it stall late and settle for a field goal. Then what seemed like a setback on a great special teams play by the Panthers set-up one of the best plays all year. Ronald Jones found a whole up the middle and took it to the house for a 98-yard touchdown run. That set a franchise record as the longest TD run in team history. This swung the momentum totally in the Bucs’ favor. Ryan Succop would add two more FGs, and Brady would add a rush TD and one more through the air to Gronkowski.
Brady threw for 341 yards and went 28-for-39. Godwin led the way receiving with 6 receptions for 92 yards. Right behind was Mike Evans who had 6 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Ronald Jones had 23 carries for 192 yards. The Buccaneers would end the game with 544 yards of total offense.
Defense did Well
There was not a sigh when the defense was on the field today. After getting run off the ball against both the Giants and the Saints, the defense showed significant improvements. Minus the 98-yard kickoff return that turned into a touchdown, the defense only gave up 17 points. Jason Pierre-Paul had a sack and an interception and the number one run defense held the Panthers to 65 yards rushing. They also limited Bridgewater’s effect by holding him to 165 passing yards. It was not a flashy nor perfect performance, but a much better showing that either of the last two weeks. They were able to sustain pressure and manage the pass attack. Carolina only managed 187 yards of total offense. More than enough for a win with the firepower the Bucs have on offense.
Where to Next
The Buccaneers will head out to California next Monday to face the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are 6-3 after defeating the Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon. The Rams are 6th in the NFC playoff picture while the Bucs now sit in 3rd. Hopefully this primetime game will be kinder to the Bucs than the previous ones.
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