BUCS : AFTER THE DUST SETTLES : CLEVELAND
By Leo Haggerty
There’s an old cliche in sports. It goes, “Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good” and, in a few cases, that’s extremely accurate.
Not so in the case with the Buccaneers in their 26-23 overtime victory against the Browns. Tampa Bay earned that victory and here’s why.
Let’s start with the obvious and that’s the game-ending 59-yard field goal by K Chandler Catanzaro. Some people may say that was lucky and I beg to differ. #7 already has a 60-yarder and a 59-yarder on his NFL resume. HC Dirk Koetter wasn’t “taking a flyer” and hoping for a miracle when he sent the former Clemson Alum out the long attempt. There was already some pertinent data to support that choice.
Yes, I know that Catanzaro just missed a 40-yard FG, in the same direction, at the end of regulation that would have won it for the Pewter Pirates. Still, the guy is a pro. When the coach feels that he’s in range, you have run him out to do what he gets paid for and that’s kicking field goals.
Now, let’s move on to the game itself. Tampa Bay, from an offense standpoint, pretty much dominated the contest. They had more first downs (34 to 17), more total plays (88 to 62), more total yards (456 to 305) and time of possession (37:43 to 30:27). So how did this game even get to overtime, you ask?
That, my friends, is an easy answer and one I have been pontificating on since I first got into coaching in 1976 and then the media in 1999. Cleveland hung around because Tampa Bay turned the football over three more times than the Browns. Two fumbles and two interceptions allowed the Lake Erie bunch to make up a 14-point fourth quarter deficit and get the tilt to extra time.
Finally, let’s look at the defense. An already depleted group lost LBs Kwon Alexander and his replacement Jack Cichy during the game. Add that to the two defensive lineman along with the four, with starting S Chris Conte and starting CB Vernon Hargreaves the most notable, defensive backs already on the IR and you can see one glaring reason why the Pewter Pirates have struggled on defense. The Pewter Pirates are running out of top-talent bodies.
Let’s give credit to HC Dirk Koetter and his staff plus the players for fighting through all the adversity and finding a way to win. The decision to kick the FG in OT was, plain and simply, ballsy. If Catanzaro misfires again, Cleveland only needs one or two first downs to get into range for their try at the game winner.
Finally, let me give you the coaching definition of luck. Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. The opportunity presented itself, after Desean Jackson caught a 14-yard strike from QB Jameis Winston, when the Bucs faced a 4th-and 15 from the Cleveland 41 with 1:50 left in OT. The preparation was all the kicks #7 has made through his collegiate and professional career.
So the luck, which was a Buccaneers victory, didn’t just happen. Tampa Bay earned it.
All pictures by It’s Sports Magazine’s Photo Journalist Steve Jacobson.