By Leo Haggerty


Tampa Bay opened their home season with a resounding 31-17 victory over Carolina.  Combined with the New Orleans loss to Las Vegas, the victory moved the Bucs to the top of the National Football Conference South Division with the Saints at 1-1.  The Panthers fell to 0-2 and that ties the Cats with Atlanta in NFC South basement.

The final arithmetic could have been worse.  The Pewter Pirates receiving corps dropped seven passes.  Two of them were obvious TD’s and this left HC Bruce Arians not a happy camper.

When queried about what needed to be done to eliminate those particular miscues, the King of the Kangol wasted no time cutting to the chase.  “Catch the damn ball or he won’t throw it to you anymore” was the advice from the Buccaneers Head Honcho and the Pewter Pirates better take that sage verbiage to heart immediately.

Tampa Bay dented the scoreboard first at 5:42 of the opening period.  RB Ronald Jones II went around right end from 7 yards out to cap a 10-play drive that went 78 yards while eating up 4:17 of clock time.  K Ryan Succop was true with the PAT putting the Bucs up 7-0.

The Buccaneers increased their advantage just over a minute later.  After Bucs S Antoine Winfield strip-sacked Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater and DE Jason Pierre-Paul covered the football, QB Tom Brady wasted no time getting the Pewter Pirates to the end zone.  #12 found WR Mike Evans with a 23-yard strike down the left sideline to culminate a 1-play drive that took seven seconds to complete.  Succup’s conversion increased their lead to 14-0.

Tampa Bay extended the lead at 3:01 of the second quarter.  Newly-acquired RB Leonard Fournette bulled in from a yard out.  That took 3:02 of clock time to traverse 65 yards in seven plays.  Succop’s successful conversion made it 21-zip and that score stood up at halftime.

Carolina dented the scoreboard for the first time at 8:36 of the third period.  RB Christian McCaffrey finished off an 8-play drive that went 47 yards in 5:25 with a one-yard dive.  That cut the Bucs lead to 21-7 with K Joey Slye successful kick.

The Panthers added another score at 13:25 of the final period.  It was McCaffrey again doing the honors and this time with a 7-yard scamper around the left end.  That capped a 13-play drive that took 6:19 that went 93 yards.  Slye’s PAT got Carolina within a score at 21-14.

Tampa Bay extended the lead to 24-14 at 6:15 of the fourth period.  Succup’s 33 yard FG finished of a drive that took 3:57 to go 45 yards in eight plays.

The Cats made it a one-touchdown game again with 1:57 left in the contest.  Slye’s field goal from 23 yards out ended a 10-play drive that took 4:16 off the clock while going 70 yards.  More importantly, it cut the Carolina deficit to 24-17.

All the Panthers had to do was either recover the ensuing onside kick or force the Bucs into a three-and-out.  Neither of those occurred.

Pewter Pirates TE Rob Gronkowski recovered Slye’s onside attempt.  Then, on the first play from scrimmage, Fournette went off left tackle all the way to the house.  The 46-yard jaunt with 1:48 left in the contest put the game out of reach at 31-17.

The Bucs now travel to Denver to take on the 0-2 Broncos.  Look for the Pewter Pirates to continue to improve as everyone gets healthy and rounds into football shape.