Bucs’ good moments offset their bad ones

by Gary Shelton on September 21, 2020

in general

Brady still finding his rhythm./TIM WIRT

There was something for everyone Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.

Good news? Bad news? They Bucs had both. Cause of optimism? Reasons for skepticism. They were there, too. A great first half? A sleepy second half? Pick your poison.

Tight throws by Tom Brady? Ones that got a way? Big plays by the defense? And 366 yards passing allowed to Teddy Bridgewater?

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Evans had a bounce-back game./TIM WIRT

In the end, the moments of the good Bucs outnumbered the moments of the bad ones. Tampa Bay evened its season record at 1-1, beating the Carolina Panthers 31-17 on a day that challenged the team's fans to measure just how much progress the team had.

For a half the Bucs were in shape to blow the Panthers away, jumping to a 21-0 lead. But late in the game, it was 21-14, and Carolina had the ball before the Bucs put it away.

"I think that at times we relaxed and we’re not good enough to relax," Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said. "Nobody in this league is good enough to relax and we talked about it at halftime. We cannot relax."

Whether it was relaxation or a failure to finish can be debated. But as much as you will hear about the way quarterback Tom Brady bounced back, he hit just six of 12 for 19 yards in the second half.

Still, there were keeper moments:

-- After a dismal first game, Mike Evans caught seven passes for 104 yards.

-- Newcomer Leonard Fournette rushed for 103 yards, including a cutaway 46-yard touchdown run with 1:48 to play.

-- The defense came up with five sacks and four turnovers, plus a stop on a fake punt.

-- Devin White had 15 tackles.

Then, there was Brady, who threw another touchdown but threw another interception. His rating 80.3., routine by his standards.

“I think (Brady) has a pretty good history of (bouncing back) and this game should have never gotten to as close as it did," Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said. "We let them back in, but he played outstanding and his leadership on the sideline was great and he put us in the right play with a number of different audibles. He played really, really well.”

Will he get better?

“I don’t think there’s any doubt,"Arians said. "It’s just going to take time. With having no preseason and all of those practices that we missed, we’re just growing day by day with Tom and the receivers and the entire offense. I think we’ll just get better and better. We’re nowhere near, in September, where I think we’ll be in November.”

Arians was glad to see Fournette, who rushed for 84 yards in the fourth quarter.

“It’s nice to have a hell of a player with fresh legs in the fourth quarter," Arians said. I" thought that our guys did a good job of mixing the backs in, (LeSean McCoy) did a great job catching the ball and making first downs. I know he wants that one back that he dropped for a touchdown but he’ll make some more in the future. The running game, I thought that our line blocked well all day. We fumbled that ball and we can’t have that on a handoff but overall, Leonard’s contribution was… as he keeps practicing and learning and doing some things, we’ll keep getting him more and more touches.”

Said Fournette: “I am getting there. It is like my ninth or tenth day still and I am still fresh, still learning the play book as it goes. As I said, a lot of us guys are still brand new to each other. It is basically a new team and we are still getting comfortable with each other.”

The offensive line, too, played much better than it did against the Saints. Brady was not sacked all day.

“That took a lot of pride," Arians said. "Last week wasn’t some of their best. I thought that Donovan (Smith) hurt his knee and went back in there and it looked like he played pretty well against a good pass-rusher. All of those guys, the way that we ran the ball in the fourth quarter is what we’re looking for and they take a lot of pride in that. I thought that the tight ends and the offensive line blocked pretty well today.”

The Bucs have a chance to measure their progress next week. They play in Denver at 4:25 p.m.

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