Bucs Sweep The Panthers

Published: November 20th, 2012
By Bucstats.com

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I’ve been waiting years to write that headline.

At about the beginning of the fourth quarter, I was pretty sure the Panthers game was going to be one of those that we all expected the Bucs to drop because they’re still not a great team yet and I was all prepared to console everyone and let them know that they’re still ahead of where we thought they’d be and winning three in a row is a great accomplishment and verbally stroking everyone so they don’t drown themselves in turkey gravy this week.

And then the last five minutes happened.

I think we all have to accept the fact that Josh Freeman is inconsistent throughout a game. But he’s consistently inconsistent. He will start off well, have a shitty middle of the game, and then end clutch. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday. His middle was about as shitty as he’s been all season and his end was absolutely brilliant. Both his passes to Vincent Jackson to tie the game were spectacular, but his play-action fake to Doug Martin on the two-point conversion to suck Luke Kuechly up was a thing of beauty. Something just clicks in Freeman when the game is on the line as the clock is ticking down. His passes become crisper, his decision making becomes better and he is obviously more confident in what he’s doing.

And as Freeman goes, so goes the offense. I’m not going to split up the offensive positions in this write-up because they’ll all look the same. Good, bad, great. The only player I’ll say was better than that was Jackson, who is quickly becoming the best free agent acquisition in Bucs history. That may not seem like a great compliment, but the Bucs have had some great producers out of free agency. Hardy Nickerson, Simeon Rice, Brad Johnson… Jackson is on the path to be better than all of them. I thought he was overrated in San Diego and probably not worth what the Bucs were paying him. I was dead wrong.

The Bucs’ defense had ten tackles for loss. Ten. That’s an incredible number. The both stuffed the run and got to the Cam Newton enough to keep him off balance for most of the game. Da’Quan Bowers re-asserted himself with a ten yard sack and Michael Bennett got another one. And Daniel Te’o-Nesheim recorded seven tackles. I really have no complaints at all about the defensive line this week.

Same thing with the linebackers. Lavonte David, awesome. Just copy and paste from the rest of the season.

I’m not sure what to think of Mark Barron. All the scouting reports talked about his inability to cover, but his 12 career interceptions at Alabama made me think they were just looking for something to bitch about since no player can be perfect. But his coverage against the Panthers was actually a liability. He gave up some big plays and gave up a PI call (which was a bullshit call, but he has to turn around and at least pretend to look for the ball if he’s going to avoid it). He missed a couple tackles as well, which was unheard of to this point. It was just a bad game and I’m not going to worry, but the guy is human. Let’s hope this was the bottom and that he’s due to get his second wind now.

Also note that there were no interceptions at all on Sunday. Against Cam Newton. It was a better game than the secondary has had recently, but still not all that strong. The secondary is still the weak spot of this defense.

But holy shit, they’re finding ways to win. I don’t want to focus on the negative here because it’s not important right now. I had just expected to lose this game when it got down close to the end because it seemed like they were due and I had no right to expect anything else. But this game showed me that this team is never really out of it. Could it be that we’ve crossed the threshold, going from a team that you expect to lose to a team you expect to win? They’re 6-4 now. They’re at the point where they can sniff the playoffs (they still don’t control their own destiny, but they’re on the verge). The teams that they have to play aren’t unbeatable and some of them should even be gimmes. Wow, it really does feel like a new day in Tampa Bay.