BUCS : AFTER THE DUST SETTLES : CAROLINA
By Leo Haggerty

The Buccaneers came away with a 24-17 victory over the Panthers at Raymond James Sunday.  That was the second consecutive win for Tampa Bay while the Carolina losing streak has now reached four games.

Both teams are still legitimate playoff contenders at least from a mathematical sense.  Tampa Bay improved to 5-7 on the season and moved into third-place in the National Football Conference South Division.  Carolina stayed in the second spot in the NFC South with a 6-6 log.

How were the Bucs able to come away with a much-needed triumph.  Let’s compare my four keys to victory using my GOAL LINE STAND column as a base and see if I can discern any obvious patterns.

Did the Pewter Pirates make Superman mortal?  Big yes to that one.

Panthers QB Cam Newton had four passes intercepted and three of those were by S Andrew Adams.  I cannot discount the play of #26, and the rest of the Buccaneers secondary, but I have to be truly honest here.  A big help to the Tampa Bay defense was the absence of Carolina TE Greg Olsen when out with a ruptured plantar fascia early in the contest.  Still, for a good majority of the contest, the Bucs kept #1 from jumping into a phone booth and putting on the cape with the big red S on it.

Did Carolina get any easy points?  I would put a check there but that would be open to debate and here’s why.

On two of the Panthers three scoring drives, the Blue & Black needed nine and ten play drives respectively.  The Bucs definitely made Carolina work for those 10 points.

So why not another big check?  On the first drive, right after the Pewter Pirates K Cairo Santos gave the Bucs a 10-0 advantage, the Panthers found the end zone in four play with the majority of the 73 yards coming on a 53-yard scamper by Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey.  Hey, as Meat Loaf said, “Two out of three ain’t bad” so I’m going to keep the box checked but not with an emphatic one.

Did the Bucs win third down? Oh yeah.

On offense, Tampa Bay was just under 50% converting 6-of-13 third down situations.  That’s pretty good no matter what level of football your playing.

On defense, the Pewter Pirates held the Panthers to 3-of-9 on third and fourth down plays.  That’s a 33% success rate and I know I’d take getting my defense off the field at a 66% clip after a third down, or fourth down, snap all day.

Finally, did #3 in red outplay #1 in white?  Using my criteria, yes.

Winston was 20-of-30 for 249 yards with 2 TDs and no interceptions.  Newton was 28-of-41 for 300 yards with 2 TDs but 4 costly interceptions.

Yes, I know Superman had more completions and yards than #3.  The bottom line was that Winston had no turnovers and Clark Kent threw four picks.

The road to the playoffs for the Buccaneers only gets tougher with Drew Brees and Company invading Tampa Bay on Sunday.  Then, the Pewter Pirates have dates in Baltimore and Dallas before finishing up with a home tilt against division-rival Atlanta.

The reason the proceeding paragraph was even relevant is because the Bucs have been winning.  If that continues Sunday against the Saints at the RayJay, thing could get very interesting.

So, the Buccaneers have to keep the ship sailing in the winning direction.  Can they do it against National Football Conference South leading New Orleans.  Check out my GOAL LINE STAND column this weekend and see what I think the Bucs need to do to stay in the post-season conversation.