CHARLOTTE- One week prior, in front of the entire country on national television, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surely didn’t look anything like the Super Bowl contenders everyone touted them to be.
Then on Sunday afternoon Nov. 15, at Bank of America Stadium, the Buccaneers sought to right the wrong and get back on track against NFC South foe Carolina Panthers. Tampa Bay made sure of it and then some, as the Buccaneers got huge plays from quarterback Tom Brady and running back Ronald Jones en route to a 46-23 victory on the road. The Buccaneers improve to 7-3 on the season and will host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football.
Slow starts have been an issue for Tampa Bay all season long and Sunday showed a slight sign of that on the first drive when Brady hit Jones on a short pass and the latter fumbled, with Carolina recovering in Tampa Bay territory. Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started off sizzling, throwing two touchdown passes in the opening quarter and giving the Panthers an initial 14-7 lead out of the gates.
Tampa Bay ended up answering back with a Ryan Succop field goal and then right before halftime, Brady connected on his second touchdown pass of the day, a 3-yarder to Mike Evans to knot the game up at 17-all heading into intermission. Coming out of halftime with the ball, Tampa Bay drove the ball downfield and settled for another Succop field goal to take a 20-17 lead. That’s when the wheels started to fall off for Carolina, however.
With no left guard Ali Marpet playing due to a concussion, many thought that the Buccaneers’ rushing attack might be lacking the punch it needed to go right at the Panthers. A shakeup of the offensive line was done by Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians, as Ryan Jensen moved from center to left guard and AJ Shipley, a former Arizona Cardinal, went to center. These moves worked wonders.
Starting at the 2-yard line midway through the third quarter, Jones broke a 98-yard touchdown run, setting a franchise record for the longest scoring run. It became the backbreaker for the Panthers, as on their very next possession Bridgewater was intercepted by outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul. The Buccaneers would cash in with another Succop field goal to go up 29-17 and they wouldn’t look back from there.
Brady had himself a much better day compared to last week’s debacle at home. The future Hall of Famer went 28-of-39 for 341 yards, three touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 124.0. Jones had himself a career day at running back, rushing for 192 yards on 23 carries, and was able to make up for the early fumble.
Now the Buccaneers will shift their focus on the Rams, who are coming off an upset win over the Seattle Seahawks. It’s been well documented that the Buccaneers have not been very good in primetime matchups and Arians has mixed up the practice schedule ahead of the game versus the Rams. The next two weeks feature above .500 teams, as the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs roll into Raymond James Stadium.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.