Hargreaves, Bucs, stop the Panthers just short

by Gary Shelton on September 13, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Hargreaves made the biggest tackle of the night./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

A year ago, they do not win this game.

Five years ago, 10 years ago, for most of the years this franchise has tried to play this game, the Bucs do not win this game.

On the road? With the other team driving? With too many penalties? Squint, and you can picture Carolina coming back to take a 21-20 win. The Bucs have let games such as this one slip away  so many times, and it has happened in so many places.

If the defense gave up just another yard at the end. If the Bucs make another turnover. If Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera doesn’t give the ball to the wrong ballcarrier. Look, it isn’t that the Bucs are 1-1. It’s that they won a division game on

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Arians won his first game as a Bucs’ coach./JEFFREY S. KING

the road, which hasn’t happened since last season’s opener. It’s that they stopped Carolina from pulling it out at the end. It’s that someone made a play when they need to make a play.

But none of that happened. What happened is that Vernon Hargreaves made the tackle of his career, and the Bus walked away with a 20-14 victory over the Panthers on the road. In so doing, they gave Bruce Arians the first win of his Tampa Bay era.

Winston was efficient against the Panthers./STEVEN MUNCIE

And, at 1-1, the Bucs are still begging you to believe.

Oh, it’s getting easier to believe in the defense, which gave up just 17 points in the opener and just four field goals against the Panthers. Led by Hargreaves’ 12 tackles, and Shaq Barrett’s three sacks, it’s at least a competitive defense for a change.

Hargreaves has been maligned since entering the league. But he made a sure tackle on third down on T.J. Moore, meaning the Panthers had to go for it on fourth down. After Arians called back-to-back time outs (a penalty) the ball was moved to the 2.

Barrett had three sacks./TIM WIRT

“They won that one in spite of me. Obviously the double timeout was stupid and it was a situation where I had called timeout, Todd didn’t realize it, coach called timeout, we always do that. It almost cost us the game but it didn’t, our defense stood up and made a hell of a play. Really proud of how our defense played all night, I thought we handled McCaffrey extremely well, Olson on the other hand gave us a little problem, but I’d rather have him give us a problem than McCaffrey. I thought Todd had a great plan coming in and our guys played for 60 minutes, it wasn’t perfect but we played extremely hard for 60 minutes. I thought obviously our run game is building strides, last week I thought was good, I thought tonight was really good against a hell of a front. To come in here and win is a hard thing to do so we’re really pleased.”

Barber rushed for 82 yards./TIM WIRT

For years, the Panthers’ plan on fourth-and-one was to let Newton carry the ball. But not this time. The Panthers made a direct snap to Christian McCaffrey, who went around left end. Hargreaves shoved him out short of the line of scrimmage, however.

“Our guys played hard for 60 minutes,” Arians said. “It wasn’t perfect, but they played hard. It’s two weeks in a row we defended every blade of grass.

“It was a great tackle by Vernon just to drive and to keep a good running back out of the end zone, let alone get a first down. It was a great play by Vernon.”“I thought he was outstanding. He had a hell of a week as far as mentally getting ready for this ballgame. I think that’s the type of game he can play, I didn’t think he played that bad last week, he had the one bad play, but tonight he was really spot on.”

Barrett had three sacks./TIM WIRT

Nice, isn’t it, after a season in which a lot of quarterbacks made runs at perfection in game after game. This time, former league MVP Cam Newton threw for 325 yards, but he hit only 24 of 50 passes and his rating was just 69.1. Barrett sacked him three times.

“Shaq, he beat about two or three different dudes,” Arians said. “I can’t say enough about him, he had one last week and I think that’s the type of year he’s going to have. He can rush the passer.”

Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw three picks (and it should have been four) in the opener, was much more precise this time. His rating for the first game was just 45.4, one of the low marks of his career. Against Carolina, he hit 16 of 25 and had a ranking of 103.4.

“I thought he was outstanding,” Arians said. “He had a hell of a week as far as mentally getting ready for this ballgame. I think that’s the type of game he can play, I didn’t think he played that bad last week, he had the one bad play, but tonight he was really spot on.”

Chris Godwin caught eight of Winston’s passes for 121 yards. Peyton Barber led all rushers with 82 yards. Ronald Jones, who had 75 yards in the opener, had just nine yards Thursday night.

Minter filled in well for Devin White./TIM WIRT

“I’m going to ride the hot hand,” Arians said.

McCaffrey carried 16 times, but gained only 37 yards.

Arians enjoyed his first win.

“You always want to get that first one off your back, you know? The guys have bought in, they gave us everything. We did some dumb things in the first half but we were in the same situation last week…one-point lead coming out of halftime, this time the defense stopped them, offense had a good drive, then we gave up the safety. Couple of dumb things happened but there was no panic on the sideline. Guys were convinced we were going to win that ball game.”

The Bucs will play next at home against the New York Giants on Sept.  22 at 4:05 p.m.

 

 

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