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Swing Points: Week 2 - Carolina Panthers

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After beating the Browns in Week 1, the Buccaneers faced the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. The Bucs had been destroyed by the Panthers' offensive line and their running backs in the past years, and a narrow victory over the Cleveland Browns didn't inspire much confidence in the qualities of this team. While the Panthers had lost their first game against the Giants, they hadn't looked horrible doing so and there was no reason to believe this Carolina team was going to be a walkover. With the Bucs run defense looking vulnerable against the Browns and Josh Freeman still struggling with a thumb injury, this looked like a tough game. 

The Bucs looked great early on, scoring a touchdown on their second possession with an Earnest Graham 14-yard touchdown catch. The Panthers managed to get a running game against the Bucs defense, but they didn't manage to convert that running into any points. Despite that, the Panthers equalized. Raheem Morris decided to send the house on a fourth-and-four from the Bucs' 37-yard-line. That left Aqib Talib in man coverage on Steve Smith, who created just a tiny bit of space to catch a slant and take it to the house after Talib whiffed on the pass breakup and the tackle. 

On the ensuing Bucs possession, things didn't look so rosy for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs struggled to move the chains and it didn't take long before they faced a third-and-seventeen from their own 25-yard-line. And that's when Josh Freeman and Kellen Winslow stepped up. Freeman took the shotgun snap, but didn't get much time to survey the field before Charles Johnson beat Davin Joseph inside and was in his face. Josh Freeman shrugged off the lineman, and rolled right, where he had to break another tackle. This time, he simply pushed down Eric Norwood. Linebackers were converging on Freeman, but he was undeterred and rifled a pass downfield. Freeman had seen some white gloves waving for the ball, and he got the ball there in a hurry. Kellen Winslow caught the ball before stumbling out of bounds for a 40-yard gain. That was a stunning play, the kind of play you saw Ben Roethlisberger make with regularity over the previous years. It was also the kind of play you would see Josh Freeman make many times over during the 2010 season. 

That's when the game swung in the favor of the Buccaneers. Mike Williams would take a quick pass to the house, breaking multiple tackles, on the very next play. After that the Panthers wouldn't score another point, but the Bucs would knock out QB Matt Moore and add two more field goals to win the game 20-7. At this point the Buccaneers were 2-0, and needed just one more win to match their 2009 win total.