Yeesh, for the rest of the country, that had to be one u-g-l-y game to watch. The Buccaneers and Panthers seemed to take turns at seeing who could out suck the other.
For the Bucs, there's plenty of reasons why. After all, when your starting defensive line is made up of street free agents and your starting running backs were either on the street or on the practice squad when the season kicked off, it would take one hell of an effort to win on the road in hostile territory on Monday night football.
For the Panthers? Yes, they were without Cam. They hadn't stopped them before. That team has the look of a 1-4 football squad.
Make no mistake fans, if the Bucs lost this game, it's basically curtains on 2016 and time to start looking at draft prospects.
At 2-3 with two road victories in the division, you still got a chance.
1. Dirk Koetter is taking a lot of heat for his conservative gameplan against Carolina. Look folks, his defense was riddled with injuries. There were no subs to sub in and give guys rest. The only way the Bucs would stay competitive in this game was if they could control the clock, which they did to a tune of 34:09 to 25:51. In the first half, it was even more impressive, the Bucs had a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession. The Bucs had to play this way, folks or there would be no defense left in the fourth quarter. Even with the time advantage, you could see the Bucs defense get winded and start to struggle in the second half. Runs that were being gobbled up and denied in the first half were popping for long gainers in the second.
With that said, make no mistake - this was also about Jameis. Dirk Koetter knows his quarterback better than any of us and right now Jameis is struggling to find a rhythm and confidence. When allowed to throw the ball, you could see him try to aim it, make the perfect pass, not put it in any danger. It caused a lot of his passes to sail on him a bit. Right now Jameis is trying to find himself and his best friend is a good running attack. With Rodgers being effective, it was only natural to keep putting it his hands, bleed the clock and win this thing in the fourth quarter - that's right - Dungyball.
Now, I will levy this criticism. In the fourth quarter, you got to let your quarterback go win you the football game. Koetter said after the game that he hasn't lost faith in Jameis, but the optics aren't good when you have a chance to move down the field and you play for overtime. Yes, the Bucs were deep in their own territory, and they were fearful a three-and-out would give the Panthers a chance for their own last second heroics.
That's the losing culture right there, coach. You need to get that out of your system, too. You need to play to win instead of trying not to lose. It worked out, thanks to some clutch third down throws by Jameis, but you're not going to win a lot of football games playing not to lose.
2. A large amount of kudos to the Bucs' defense Monday Night. Yes, they were playing against a depleted Panthers offense without Cam Newton or Johnathan Stewart - but folks, the Bucs had NOBODY on the defensive line, was on the road and shut out the Carolina Panthers - one of the highest scoring offenses in the league - in the first half.
They kept their team in the game with huge, game changing takeaways. Brent Grimes made perhaps the play of the season picking off Derek Anderson in the red zone. A score there and we may have been talking about opportunity lost. Grimes, btw, narrowly missed a pick six as well. Hopefully this is a sign that he's getting comfortable in this defense and will be an impact player the rest of the season.
They had a tall task handling the Carolina behemoths (which ESPN seemed to harp on) and yes, surrendered some yardage. But when it mattered the most. they got off the field. Carolina was 1-for-8 on 3rd downs.
Of course, red zone efficiency still leaves a lot to be desired, but considering how depleted this defense is right now, I think we can give them a bit of a pass.
Great game, guys. It was good to see.
3. Jacquizz Rodgers did his best Warrick Dunn impression, chewing up the clock and helping his quarterback and his defense. Rodgers was a workhorse, carrying the ball a whopping 30 times for 101 yds on the ground and adding another 5 receptions for 26 yards.
As the game went on, Carolina began to slow him down (and I'm sure he began to get a little tired), but he still kept Carolina honest.
While the Bucs will welcome back Doug Martin with open arms, Tampa Bay has to be pleased with Rodgers performance last night.
4. Yes, Roberto Aguayo made the game winning field goal. He was also the reason the Bucs needed one. Now, 46 yarders aren't automatic, but most NFL caliber kickers make those pretty regularly. The 35 yarder was inexcusible. That has to be made - period. Had Aguayo made his kicks, Tampa Bay would have been playing with a lead, rather than struggling to get down the field or at best, force overtime.
Now, the Bucs really need to finish drives with touchdowns. There's no doubt about that. Still, not all drives will end in six and Tampa Bay needs to know when they get into field goal range, it's not going to be an adventure.
Aguayo, had he missed the game winner, may have been looking for a job today. Maybe that's why a "Bucs official" whose last night might rhyme with fright reportedly got a little misty-eyed when that kick went through.
Let's hope this kick is what Aguayo needs to boost his confidence and be the kicker the Bucs hope he can be.
5. While getting the victory feels good, it doesn't hide some glaring "Bucs being the Bucs" moments. Howard Jones. What the hell are you doing roughing the punter? Gosder Cherilus costing the Bucs a 3rd and 1 at the 5 with a terrible false start. Someone, anyone covering Greg Olsen (btw, it will be a great day in Bucs history when that S.O.B. retires). Demar Dotson tackling a Panther defensive lineman and getting a holding call, taking the Bucs out of field goal...well, a chance at a field goal anyway. Penalties, self inflicted wounds that stall drives and extend drives for the opponent. This is why Tampa Bay struggles to win.
6. All week long, Bucs fans were terrified of Derek Anderson. After all, Anderson was 2-0 vs the Bucs. What everyone forgot was that he was 0-6 against everyone else. Anderson looked every bit the backup, throwing two interceptions and fumbling away an opportunity on the plus side of the field.
His most aggregious turnover was with the Panthers, poised to take the lead, throwing into triple coverage in the end zone trying to force one into Greg Olsen (who the Bucs actually decided to cover on that play). Brent Grimes did one of his patented sky jobs, pulling down the crucial interception and robbing the Panthers of their scoring opportunity.
7. Please allow me to step away from the game for just a brief second and just get this off my chest. What the hell are you doing 620 WDAE? The flagship station of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers doesn't have a local morning show anymore? Are you kidding me? Buc fans would love to hear what Bucs beat writer Rick Stroud or Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones thought about the performance. Fans wanted to call in and talk about their team.
Instead, they have to hear BSPN blowhards Mike-and-Mike talking about David Ortiz. Are you kidding me? I don't know what's going on with local sports talk radio. The weak 1040am station has gone all National, no local sports coverage - and now 620 WDAE seems to be starting in that direction.
Pretty soon, all you will have are podcasts from What the Buc, the Pewter Report guys or Justin Pawlowski. While I love what those dedicated podcasters do, I do enjoy listening to local sports radio talk. WDAE's decision is terrible and ridiculous. I hope they open the door for a competitor in the market that sees a golden opportunity for disenfranchised Tampa Bay sports fans who could give a flip less about the Red Sox or Tom Brady.
8. Okay, sorry about that. Back to the game - one thing that really bothered me about ESPN's coverage was the disrespect shown to the Buccaneers. I get it, Carolina is the marquee team here. They're the ones that would keep the eyeballs trained on the game. Still, they were acting like the Bucs truly had no shot at winning this game, at one point Susy Kolber quipped, "Wow, this seems like a bit of a mismatch," to which Steve Young giggled, "Ya Think?" Trent Dilfer went on and on about the heart of the Panthers - as if the Bucs had no one with heart or a desire to win.
Right before the game kicked off, Randy Moss was wearing Panthers hoodie with sleeves cut off. I remember now why I never watch BSPN. Not only are their analysts terrible, they have no idea what they're talking about. I think the most satisfying thing about this victory was having them try to explain how the shoe-in Panthers got beat in their own crib by a supposedly inferior and undermanned Bucs team.
9. Next up for the Bucs is a much needed bye week. Now, I normally hate byes this early in the season but the Bucs resemble a M*A*S*H unit right now. They desperately need this week away to heal up and get some bodies back for the rest of the season. Tampa Bay could see the return of Doug Martin, Robert Ayers, Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald and maybe a few other guys like Louis Murphy and JR Sweezy for San Francisco.
What a boost that would be for the team that is feeling a lot better about itself than it did a week ago.
10. DLT's Game Tweets of the Week
After Aguayo's Fourth Quarter miss...
YOU SUCK AGUAYO! #Bucs pic.twitter.com/9rHn2V6y6D— JC De La Torre (@jcdelatorre) October 11, 2016
And about 20 minutes later...
You are awesome Aguayo! #Bucs #TBvsCaR #MNF pic.twitter.com/8hyCIRpxKh— JC De La Torre (@jcdelatorre) October 11, 2016