Buccaneers-Panthers: Bucs' Defense Giveth, Then Taketh Away
Oh how tough it is when you are an NFL head coach in search of your first career victory. Some coaches get it right away and don't have to feel that pressure. For others, like Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris, it can take a little while and now Morris is six weeks into the season.
This one definitely has to hurt.
The Bucs defense and special teams erased a 14-point deficit to tie the ball game at 21 with eight minutes left to play, but then failed to get off the field on a game-defining 16-play drive that consisted of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart pounding the soft underbelly of the Buccaneers defense.
It was death by a thousand paper cuts and it was a grueling display.
The Panthers' horrid quarterback Jake Delhomme did his best to give the Buccaneers their first victory, tossing two second half interceptions, including a 26-yard interception return for touchdown by Tanard Jackson that tied it.
When the Panthers got the ball back, they weren't going to let Delhomme throw it. Either they were going to pound the Bucs into submission or they would play for overtime, since the punchless Buccaneer offense didn't seem to be much of a threat.
You have to wonder if once the Bucs allowed the Panthers within the five yard line with 1:30 left and no time outs, if "Let them Score" didn't cross some minds on the Buc bench.
The Panthers could have simply taken a knee, work down the clock and play for the chip shot field goal with no time left.
Instead, they went for the score. The Bucs stopped them and the Panthers bled the clock down further. One more plunge got them in, leaving the Bucs with just 29 seconds left.
Sure, you never want to let the opposing team score—but looking at it logically, at least had you given up the score quicker, rather than playing for the pride of keeping them out of the end zone, you would have left your offense with a lot more time to move the ball down the field in a two minute drill rather than a paltry 29 seconds to try the Cal-Stanford play that only seemed to work in that game.
Of course, the coach speak will say, well anything can happen—a fumble, a botched snap and you can kill the opportunity. Maybe. What's more likely to happen? A miracle fumble or an 80 yard drive with 1:30 left in the game to tie it back up?
While my fellow FC Tom Edrington will give you all the detailed analysis on what went wrong in this one, let me highlight a few good things that happened on Sunday.
How about Stylz G. White, in his first game filling in for the traded Gaines Adams? Eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, two additional hits on the quarterback. He had more impact in one game then Adams has had the entire season.
How about Tanard Jackson? In his second game back from suspension—Jackson had five tackles, a forced fumble in the red zone, a blasting hit on Muhsin Muhammad and a game tying interception return for a touchdown.
Jackson remains the best player on the Buccaneers defense.
How about Sammie Stroughter? Three big catches for 65 yards and a Buccaneer record 97 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to pull the Bucs back into the game.
How about Cadillac Williams? Pounding out 77 well earned yards and making a sick move to bust loose on a 20-yard touchdown.
How about Aquib Talib? Shutting down Steve Smith, limiting him to one catch for four yards.
How about Barrett Ruud? Intercepting a pass and making an impact for the first time this season. Yes, I realize Ruud leads the team in tackles, but when the majority are six or more yards down field it doesn't help much.
How about the Bucs special teams? A blocked field goal and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Had there not been a terrible snap on the field goal attempt, it may have been a perfect day for the "We-Fense" as special teams coach Rich Bisaccia likes to call it.
Okay, that's about all we have for positives.
The question is not whether the Bucs can win over the pond, barring some sort of miracle that's not going to happen.
It's whether or not Josh Freeman is going to get some snaps in the game.
It's whether this team can stay together despite the 10 game losing streak.
It's whether they care enough about this coach to keep playing hard.
When you're winless, you have to take the small victories where you can get them.
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