BUCS RECAP – WEEK 16 – DECEMBER 26
By Leo Haggerty

CAROLINA PANTHERS

With the new Covid protocols initiated by the National Football League, access at practice has been severely limited.  With that being said, not a lot going on until game day but I was able to attend practice on Thursday.  Did get a few shots of the players working out.

Had a chance on Friday, during the Zoom interview with HC Bruce Arians, to ask a couple of questions.  Below are his responses to my inquiries.

LH : It looked like you didn’t run a lot of up tempo on offense.  Game plan decision or did the new personnel dictate that?

BA : No, we ran a bunch of up-tempo. We weren’t very good at it.

LH : At the end of the first half, you have the Saints backed up.  If you could have forced a punt, would you have considered going for a free-kick field goal if given that opportunity?

BA : Yeah, always. We’re ready for that scenario if we could have stopped them.

After falling behind 3-0, the Buccaneers outscored the Panthers 19-3 the rest of the first half and cruised to a 32-6 win at Bank of America Stadium.  The victory moved the Bucs to 11-4 and clinched the National Football Conference South Division.  The loss dropped Carolina to 5-10 and last place in the NFC South.

After the Bucs were forced to punt on their opening possession, the Panthers opened the scoring at 7:17 of the opening quarter.  K Liram Hajrullahu blasted a 24 yard field goal to finish off a nine play drive that travelled 59 yards in 5:04.  That gave the home team an early 3-0 advantage.

Tampa Bay answered immediately at 4:13 of the first quarter.  RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn (7 for 70 yards and 1 TD) went off the left side through a gaping hole and scampered down the sideline 55 yards to the end zone.  That ended an 80 yard drive that took five plays in 2:53.  K Ryan Succop booted the PAT and the Buccaneers took the lead at 7-3.

The Pewter Pirates increased their advantage after a Panthers turnover at 10:54 of the second period.  After QB Cam Newton (7 of 13 for 61 yards plus 1 INT) was picked off by S Jerome Whitehead, the Buccaneers marched 33 yards in 10 plays taking 5:47.  Succop converted a 36 yard field goal and the Bucs went up 10-3.

The Panthers cut into the lead at 7:20 of the second quarter. Again, it was Hajrullahu with a three pointer this time from 29 yards culminating a six play drive that took 3:34 to traverse 64 yards.  That moved the Cats to within striking distance at 10-6.

Tampa Bay responded with the next 10 points to finish off the first half.  The Bucs moved ahead 13-6 with another Succop field goal this time from 43 yards.  That capped a 4:40 drive that took nine plays to go 45 yards but the Pewter Pirates weren’t done.

After a Carolina punt, the Buccaneers scored again with 69 seconds left in the second period.  QB Tom Brady (18 of 30 for 232 yards and 1 TD) found a wide open TE Cameron Brate (2 for 11 yards and 1 TD) in the middle of the end zone.  That drive took a grand total of 22 seconds to motor 69 yards in four plays.  After a penalty on the Cats that moved the ball to the one yard line, Tampa Bay tried for the two point conversion but was unsuccessful and that left the score at 19-6.

The Pewter Pirates were the first to dent the scoreboard in the second half at 8:34 of the third period.  After forcing the Panthers to punt, the visitors took nine plays to move 41 yards in 3:35 with  Succop splitting the uprights to vault the Buccaneers to a 22-6 margin.

After a Cats punt, the Bucs changed the scoreboard again at 2:08 of the third quarter.  RB Ronald Jones (20 for 65 yards and 1 TD) swept left end and went untouched across the goal line halting a seven play drive that went 57 yards in 4:12.  Succop was true with the extra point and the Buccaneers extended their lead to 29-6.

Tampa Bay continued to pad their lead with 7:59 left in the tilt.  Succop booted his fourth field goal of the afternoon with this one from 48 yards.  That completed a 15 yard drive that took five plays and 1:50 of clock time.  That pushed the Pewter Pirates lead to 32-6 and that would be the final arithmetic.

Got a chance to slide in a question of Vaughn at the Zoom post game.  His answer is below.

LH :  You had a tough game last week and didn’t play particularity well.  How important was it for you to put that behind you and have a good game this week?

KV : It meant a lot to me mentally and physically but more mental.  Just pacing myself and slowing the game down.  Just sitting back and learning.  This week of preparation was also good for me.

Now it’s back to the drawing board to prepare for a trip to the Northeast to take on the New York Jets next Sunday.  Kickoff is scheduled for 1 PM EST so look for our weekly recap later that day.