Well, well, well. It's been quite a long time since Bucs fans have had that feeling of victory. To do it against the much ballyhooed (and hated) Carolina Kitties made it that much sweeter.
The 10 game losing streak is no more. The stench of the last month of the 2011 football season has been replaced by the rose of a hard fought victory. It smells wonderful, doesn't it Buc Fans?
Oh sure, the Bucs let the Putties hang around a little too long for our comfort but it sure felt like they never really lost control of the ballgame.
This was old school Dungy Ball at it's finest and I, for one, loved it.
So after the jump are 10 things We Think We Learned from this week's win.
1. Gerald McCoy can ball. We don't want to jinx him considering his history but if he can stay healthy, GMC is a man among boys and may finally be living up to his lofty draft status. He was a force against the Panthers, blowing up the running game and repeatedly pressuring Panthers QB Cam Newton. He was credited with 2 tackles and one sack but he definitely would have had more if it would have been any other quarterback not named Newton.
2. Superman apparently can't resist that Pewter colored Kryptonite. Cam Newton made a few excellent reads and found some holes in the Bucs secondary - but throughout the ball game he was harassed by a relentless Buccaneer pass rush (when was the last time I typed that - 2003?) and was fearing for his life most of the game. More importantly, he couldn't break off those Cam runs that so victimized the team last season.
3. Going into tonight's Monday Night double-header, your Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the number one run defense in the National Football League. Let's say that again - Tampa Bay - the number one rush defense in the league. What a performance by the Bucs defense against the run! After two games where the Panthers rushed for 433 yards, the Bucs defense limited Carolina to only 10. The Bucs so dominated the Panthers in the running attack, Carolina simply quit running it - managing just 13 rushing plays for the game.
4. That Mark Barron guy? He can play. Barron was all over the field on Sunday, delivering big hits (especially to Steve Smith) and making one of the standout defensive plays of the game with a pass defense on a deep ball.
5. That Lavonte David guy? He can play, too. David was fantastic, making six tackles including some crucial open field take downs that last year would have broken loose for big gains. David also put some pressure on Cam with blitzes and was solid in coverage.
6. Everything wasn't perfect for the Bucs defense, a couple blown assignments in the Tampa Bay secondary led to big pass plays for the Panthers offense, including a 22 yard touchdown pass from Newton to Brandon Lafell. It could have been either a linebacker not getting depth or the safety not getting over - we'll need to check the tape - but the results were sure visible. We can expect these little flair ups while the players learn this new defensive system.
7. That Doug Martin guy? He's not half bad. The Panthers were focused on stopping the run and there were far too many 1 and 2 yard runs - but D-Mart did his job - pounding out 95 yds on 24 carries and his 15 yard explosion sealed the game for Tampa Bay. Martin was also a factor in the passing game, nabbing four balls for 23 yards (one that will be on all the highlights as he leaped over fellow rookie Luke Kuechly) and was perfect on his pass protection.
8. Ronde Barber. In his 200th consecutive start, he notched his 28th career sacked and 44th career interception. He was all over the field, making plays. Sign of the game: "That's why he's still here."
9. The offense put in a workman like effort but one has to get a little concerned when the team went a Mike Shula-esque conservative play calling in the second half. It didn't help that prized free agent Vincent Jackson dropped two passes that would have been first downs and had another big pass reception called back on a holding call. The Bucs had a chance to put the pitties away and didn't do it. That must improve.
10. The Panthers did a superb job taking away the deep ball - but they had some help. Several times during the game, you could see Buccaneer receivers getting mugged but only one call was made by the replacement refs. Holding was also prevalent with the Bucs' pass rush. Carolina fans certainly have some gripes as well, especially on Ahmad Black's int where it appeared the receiver was mauled by a Bucs defender. It seems the Rep Refs are doing everything they can to avoid being the story - which means stuff that normally would be called probably won't be. Its the way of life until the Ed Hoculi's of the world return.