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Turning the Tide: Breaking down the two plays that determined the Bucs-Panthers game

These are some good ones.

Ndamukong Suh’s two sacks were key plays in the Bucs’ win over the Panthers.
| Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Turning The Tide is a weekly segment where Evan will pick the offensive and defensive play that turned the game f. Whether it was for good or for bad, we will break it all down and tell you what went wrong or what went right.

As with any win, there are plenty of good plays to go ‘round.

Trust me, it was hard to pick the top play on offense and defense that changed the game, but it eventually came to fruition after reviewing the game a couple of more times.

Let’s dive into this week’s edition of Turning the Tide.


Leonard Fournette’s 46-yard touchdown run to seal the deal

Tampa Bay’s offense was cooking the first half. The Bucs were able to put 21 points on the board thanks to a suffocating defense that allowed just 70 net yards in the first 30 minutes of the game.

But the Bucs’ offense ran into a wall of its own in the second half. A dreadful third quarter allowed the Panthers to creep back into the game. What was once a 21-0 decimation by the Bucs turned into a 21-14 comeback for the Panthers.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Christian McCaffrey had the Panthers within one touchdown of the Bucs’ lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A key interception led to a Tampa Bay field goal that gave the Bucs a 10-point lead and some breathing room, but much like the Bucs’ offense in the first half, the Panthers’ offense was starting to cook at this point.

Carolina downed a field goal and made it a one-score game, again, at 24-17. Tampa Bay received the ball with 1:57 left in the game, but Carolina still had two timeouts, so the game wasn’t exactly over just yet.

But that didn’t last long. Fournette busts through the left side of the offensive line and showcases the 4.4 speed that made him a top-5 draft pick. He outraces Tre Boston en route to the end zone, which pushes the Bucs’ lead to 30-17 (before the PAT) and puts the final nail in the Panthers’ coffin.

The Bucs come out in 12 personnel and the Panthers respond with eight guys in the box and Boston creeping toward the line of scrimmage. It’s clear that Tampa Bay is going to try and run out the clock and that Carolina is going to sell out to stop it.

This looks like “Duo”, due to the double teams of Ali Marpet/Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa/Tristan Wirfs on Derrick Brown and Zach Kerr. Bucs fans should be able to recognize Scotty Miller’s motion because it’s what the Bucs like to do with Chris Godwin when he’s in the game. The offensive line does a good job of holding their blocks while Miller, O.J. Howard, and Rob Grownkowski do a good job of blocking the edge. Cappa sheds Kerr and is able to get to the second level. He then takes Tahir Whitehead out of the play, which is what opens the lane up for Fournette.

It’s all Fournette from there. He runs through the arm tackle of Shaq Thompson (who’s supposed to be the Panthers’ best linebacker) and takes off to the end zone.

This was a well-executed run that came through at the most opportune of times for the offense. Fournette was a big part of the win and should certainly help the Bucs win more games as the season wears on.

“To have Leonard come in with fresh legs in the fourth quarter and pound it like that – very few teams have that combination,” Bruce Arians told reporters after the game. “I thought our backs played really, really well other than the handoff fumble.”


Carlton Davis III’s fourth-quarter interception

The Bucs’ defense made plays all game long. The final stat line was five sacks and four takeaways. It was Todd Bowles’ most impressive game since arriving in Tampa Bay.

What makes the performance so impressive is that it reflected what Bowles and his defense talked about all week long —which was creating pressure and turnovers. As it turned out, that’s exactly what they did.

“Overall, as far as a defense, I feel like we executed Coach [Todd] Bowles’ game plan,” linebacker Devin told reporters a few days after the Saints game. “The only thing was I felt like we should’ve been able to get more sacks and a couple turnovers. That’s what we kind of pride ourselves on is getting takeaways.”

Bowles echoed those same sentiments later in the week. “We have to get turnovers, obviously” he said when asked how the defense can improve. “We can pressure the quarterback more, we can tackle better – there’s a lot of things when you lose a ballgame that you have to get better at and we understand that as a group.”

Out of all the sacks and turnovers, none meant more than Davis’ interception with 10:15 left in the fourth quarter. Carolina had pulled within a touchdown of Tampa Bay’s lead and had just received the ball at their own 12. It was great starting field position for the Bucs, but Teddy Bridgewater immediately found D.J. Moore on the first play of the drive for a 39-yard gain.

William Gholston came through with a huge sack on the next play to put the Panthers in a 2nd and 17. That play was big enough on its own, but what came after was even better.

The Panthers came out in 12 personnel, which was peculiar considering the down and distance, but it made sense because there was a great chance the Bucs would send a blitz in that scenario. The Panthers would leave both tight ends and running back Mike Davis into block, giving them a total of eight blockers (max protection), which is something they do often.

The two detached receivers are Moore and Robbie Anderson; the latter being the slot receiver and the former the Z receiver. Bridgewater sends Moore in motion and snaps the ball before Moore is set, allowing him to get a bit of a jump start on Davis.

The Panthers were right in guessing the Bucs would blitz and they pick it up pretty well. Tampa Bay sends seven guys after Bridgewater, who knows Davis has Moore man-to-man since Anderson’s seam route will occupy both Sean Murphy-Bunting and Antoine Winfield Jr., the Bucs’ second-year corner and rookie safety.

Gholston pressures Bridgewater, who makes an errant throw. Davis sits on Moore’s post route and probably would’ve broken the pass up even if it was on target. The fact that Davis came down with the ball is a remarkable play on his end and something that this defense has missed for a long time.

So, why did Davis sit on the route?

“The interception was a play that they ran earlier on in the game, and I actually got beat on it over the middle,” Davis said after the game. “When they did the same motion and it was the same formation, I just kind of knew it was coming or kind of thought it would come, and I just made a play.”

Here’s the play Davis is referring to. This is on 2nd and 6 in the first quarter.

The irony here is that the Panthers ran the same play twice against the Raiders on 4th and 1 in Week One and the Raiders stopped them on the second attempt to win the game.

Now we know why Arians doesn’t run the same play twice in one game.

What also makes this play so great is that it not only killed the Panthers drive, but the Bucs were able to get a field goal and extend their lead to 24-14 and left Carolina with a little over six minutes to try and tie everything up.

It was the perfect way for the defense to leave their final mark on an impressive performance.

Which play do YOU think determined the Bucs-Panthers matchup? Let us know via the poll/comment section below!


Which play turned the tide in favor of the Bucs?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Leonard Fournette’s 46-yard touchdown run
    (23 votes)
  • 72%
    Carlton Davis III’s fourth quarter interception
    (61 votes)
84 votes total Vote Now

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