Bucs rebound to beat Panthers in 2nd half

by Gary Shelton on November 16, 2020

in general

Bucs' running back Ronald Jones ran for 192 yards./@ Joe Mestas

Monday, 4 a.m.

They still are not as sharp as you would wish. They won big, but it wasn't against the Saints. They had a fine time, but it wasn't in prime time.

On the other hand, the Bucs won Sunday.

Can we return to sanity for a moment?

Oh, for the last week, we have seen the sky as falling and the earth as opening up. But the Bucs showed a bit of bounce-back Sunday, overwhelming the Carolina Panthers in the second half and rolling to a 46-23 victory.

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And a lot of last week's questions became this week's answers.

Such as:

-- Quarterback Tom Brady, who had three interceptions and a 40.4 rating against New Orleans, came back with 341 yards and three touchdowns. He had a 124.0 quarterback rating.

-- Running back Ronald Jones II, who had only nine yards against the Saints and just 66 in his last three games combined, rolled for a personal high of 192 yards, including a franchise record 98 yard run.

-- Against the Saints, the three-headed receiving corps of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, were largely ineffectual. Against the Panthers, they combined for 21 catches and 237 yards.

-- The Bucs left the field against the Saints talking about their struggles on third down. Offensively, the Bucs converted six of 10 third downs. Defensively, they allowed Carolina to convert just one of nine.

-- Against the Saints, the Bucs ran the ball only five times - including. a kneel-down, which was the lowest figure in the history of the NFL. Against the Panthers, they ran it 37 times.

-- Against New Orleans, the Bus had 194 total yards. Against the Panthers, they had 544 yards.

True, the difference isn't just in the Bucs, but also in who they were playing. Carolina has now lost five in a row, but the first four of those were close. Even this one was 17-17 at the half before the Bus outscored the Panthers 29-6 over the second half.

"We can’t look in the rearview mirror – we can only look straight ahead," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "All week we had great intensity in practice and overcame the early fumble on offense. Again, the first half – I wasn’t that pleased even though it was tied when we came in. Second half I was really pleased with the way we played ball.”

But there is something to shaking off two straight sub-par weeks (against the Giants and Saints) and coming out sharp. Consider this: Of the Panthers' three touchdowns, one came after a fumble by Jones and another after a 98-yard kickoff return by Trenton Cannon.

Some of this is normal in the NFL. There is nothing as depressing as a lopsided score. You think the loser will never win again, and the winner isa juggernaut. But some of that is reactionary.

Ask Brady. Nine times over his career, he has lost games by 20 points or more. He is 8-1 in his next start.

“It was outstanding," Arians said of Brady's play. "When they were blitzing, he threw it out on his check downs. Those quick throws outside are kind of audibles after the ball is snapped. He did play really, really well. He knows he left a couple out there, too. We had A.B. (Antonio Brown) wide open, Mike [Evans] and Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) – the wind was really tricky. He’s as critical of himself as I am, [but] he played fantastic.”

Said Brady: "It was a lot of mental toughness from the guys this week. B.A. (Arians) just said from the beginning, ‘There’s no excuses.’ We got delayed, we were frustrated by it, but whatever. We got in at 11:30 (on Saturday night). We dealt with the storm earlier in the week, but we were just focused on coming out and doing a better job and playing better than we played last week, obviously. It’s in there. We’ve just got to do it consistently, continue to make plays, run the ball like we ran it today – the line did a great job – and keep getting the ball to the guys who can make plays with it. There were a lot of guys spreading it around quite a bit today. We’re just going to have to keep improving [and] get better. We’ve got a huge game coming up Monday night.” 

Bouncing back is part of the game, Brady said.

“It’s a team sport, so the team has got to come together and understand the things we need to improve." Brady said. "Football – it’s tough. It’s not a game of perfect. You’ve got a lot of talented players, you’ve got a lot of talented coaches and you’ve got to figure out ways to win. Every week is a little different. We’ve got different guys in there doing different things. It’s just a lot of things have to go right. We’re working hard to make it better every week and that’s what we’ve got to do.” 

Then there is Jones, who bounced back after averaging 22 yards a game the last three weeks.

“Up in New York he had a rough fumble on a ball that was on the ground," said Arians. "This one he was trying to get a little extra. He went in the tank in New York – it really bothered him and he thought he really hurt the team. We told him, ‘Hey dude, you’re our guy.’ I knew he was going to break one sooner or later. Blaine [Gabbert] and I looked at each other and Blaine said, ‘He’s going to take it to the house.’ I said, ‘Good chance on this play.’ And he did.

“I told him that’s what I expect of him. ‘You’re our guy and that’s what we expect of you all the time.’ He ran great today. He feels terrible when he makes a mistake and the fumble in New York really upset him. This one, I wasn’t going to let upset him and he bounced back really strong.”

Jones bounced back after an early fumble.

"(Arians) just said, ‘Let it go. The team’s going to need you today, so you got to get back out there,'" Jones said. "That’s what I did. Good play, bad play, you just have to forget about it, and that’s what happened. Again, still have a lot to improve on. I have to stop making those mistakes, but ultimately we came out with the win, so it feels good altogether.”

Jones talked about his 98-yard run."

“I saw the linebacker shift over, and then I’m thinking probably cut back to the left, and then it’s off to the races," Jones said. "I started looking at the jumbotron, and I’m like ‘Dang – buddy is moving back there.’ So, I changed the angle and keep striding cold turkey. [It] felt good to get that long run though.”

Brady had a good view of the play.

"I saw him get through there, then he made a cut on the safety and I saw him just get through the safety and he was taking off," Brady said. "We were all excited. He was probably at the 50-yard line and I was like, ‘Is he going to make it? Is he going to open up and go?’ Then you kind of saw [Jeremy] Chinn close on him, and I know how fast Chinn is. He just kept going. He broke away and he kept going. That was fun – it was great to see. You don’t have too many 98-yard runs. I don’t think I’ve ever had any 98-yard runs that I’ve been a part of, so it was great to see the back of the 27 jersey rolling down the field. It was just great to see him make that play. The line made a big hole for him and that was a big play in the game.”

Brady, too, showed some resiliency.

"Any time you lose it sucks – for you, for your coaches, for your families, for your friends [and] for everyone who follows you," Brady said. "But every year, you’ve got the same amount of teams in the NFL that win and lose. One team wins and one team loses. When you lose, you’ve got to figure out how to get back on track. So, it’s no excuses. This team hasn’t made any excuses all year. We just get to work and go back there and try to do better.”

Pierre-Paul was pleased the defense played better in the second half.

"I think as a defense we weren’t playing to our full ability until the second quarter," Pierre-Paul said. "We were giving them everything they had and it’s frustrating because we know we’re a better defense than what we showed today. But, we’ve just got to work on it – that’s basically it. It’s nothing you can really say to make us play – we’ve got to play ourselves.”

The Bucs, now 7-3, play the Rams at Raymond James Stadium at 8:15 p.m. on Monday night football next week.

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