TAMPA – Tampa Bay moved to 6-3 on the season, doubling its win total from a year ago, by beating Carolina, 31-16.
It’s a shame for the Buccaneers that hardly anyone was there to see it. On a warm, sunny day without a cloud in the sky, the announced attendance was 44,264 at Raymond James Stadium to see the Bucs, who were surprisingly only favored as a seven-point favorite in the NFL Odds,
move three games above .500.
The actual attendance was likely a few thousand shorter than that, but the crowd that was on hand saw quarterback Josh Freeman bounce back from a bad second half in which he was picked off twice in Tampa Bay’s 27-21 loss at Atlanta last week to throw two touchdown passes to help the Bucs build a 21-10 lead in the first half. Freeman finished the game completing 18-of-24 passes (75 percent) for 241 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and used play-action to really hurt the Panthers defense.
“It’s big time,” Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said about the use of play action. “It helps us create shots for Josh Freeman to throw down the field. It’s all started by the run. If you got something going with the running, it opens up some lanes, it slows down the rush to get to Josh, it lets him set up in a deep pocket and throw his big arm around and make accurate throws down the field, which we were able to see today.”
Running back LeGarrette Blount, who was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Atlanta 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter, had a bounce-back game, too. The 6-foot, 247-pound bruiser rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries (4.8 avg.) and a touchdown, including 75 in the first half before being contained in the second half.
With Blount getting corralled and the Bucs only up by eight points with just under three minutes to play, Cadillac Williams ripped off a 45-yard touchdown run to put Tampa Bay up by 15. Bucs tight end John Gilmore said that Williams called the touchdown in the huddle.
“Cadillac called his shot on that last touchdown in the huddle,” said Bucs tight end John Gilmore. “He said, ‘I’m getting six. We’re not throwing the ball. I’m going yard. I’m getting six on this run.’ I couldn’t help but to laugh all the way to the end zone chasing him. That was Babe Ruth-type stuff right there.”
Williams finished the day with 62 yards on five carries (12.4 avg.) and scored his first rushing touchdown of the season as the Bucs compiled a season-high 186 yards rushing (6.2 avg.).
“It’s fun, I have to be honest,” Morris said. “You sit back and you watch LeGarrette Blount, you watch Cadillac [Williams] fill his role, and what those guys were able to do for us today, rushing for 186 yards.”
Tight end Kellen Winslow had one of the best games of the season with six catches for 65 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown to help the Bucs build a 21-10 halftime lead. Gilmore, who is seldom used in the passing game, caught a season-high three passes for 52 yards, including a game-long 29-yarder in the first quarter.
Rookie wide receiver Mike Williams hauled in four passes for 68 yards with all of his production coming in the second half, and fellow rookie Arrelious Benn caught two passes for 29 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown – his second in as many weeks.
Tampa Bay’s offense generated a season-high 421 yards of offense and converted 50 percent of its third down conversions (5-of-10).
The Bucs made up for a forgettable showing on special teams with the play of their defense, which had one its better performances of the year. But that was to be expected as rookie Jimmy Clausen started at quarterback for Carolina and Mike Goodson got the start at running back with both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart out of the game due to injuries. Tampa Bay allowed only 300 yards, recorded two sacks and a forced fumble, held Goodson to 100 yards on 23 carries (4.3 avg.) and had a goal line stand on the 1-yard line to end the game.
Clausen completed 16-of-29 passes for 191 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, and was sacked by middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, who finished the game with 10 tackles, and cornerback Ronde Barber. Cornerback Aqib Talib held wide receiver Steve Smith to just three catches for 47 yards and finished the game with eight tackles.
Bucs rookie defensive Gerald McCoy tackled Goodson and forced a fumble at the Carolina 47, which ended the Panthers’ initial drive. The Bucs had their best opening drive of the year, marching 47 yards in four plays with the drive taking just 2:07. After a 5-yard run by Freeman, he hit Gilmore with a 29-yard pass off play action. Following a 5-yard run by Blount, Benn hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass, his second in as many games. With 10:37 left in the first quarter, Tampa Bay got off to a 7-0 lead.
Carolina responded with a field goal on its next offensive possession. The Panthers benefited from the Bucs having to punt from their own end zone and took over at the Tampa Bay 42. The Panthers traveled just 14 yards in seven plays and had to settle for a 46-yard field goal by John Kasay. With 52 seconds left in the first quarter, Tampa Bay’s lead was trimmed to 7-3.
The Buccaneers ran the ball at will on their next drive, covering 87 yards in six plays. Blount started off the drive with a 12-yard dash, followed by a 14-yard jaunt by quarterback Josh Johnson on a bootleg. Blount then had runs of 24, three and 17 yards before ripping off a 17-yard touchdown run that ended with him doing a 360-degree aerial spin after getting hit by Panthers safety Charles Godfrey at the 1-yard line. With 12:23 left in the second quarter, the Bucs had a 14-3 lead.
The Panthers’ next scoring drive was aided when the ball hit the leg of Elbert Mack during a punt, and Carolina recovered the fumble at the Tampa Bay 46-yard line. Goodson started things off with an 18-yard run down to the Tampa Bay 28. Mack then gave up a first down on an 18-yard pass to David Gettis on third-and-4 from the 4 at the Tampa Bay 22. Two plays later, Josh Vaughn scored a 2-yard touchdown. With 7:57 left in the second quarter, Tampa Bay’s lead was cut to 14-10.
The Buccaneers bounced right back with an eight-play, 62-yard touchdown drive right before halftime. Winslow started things off an 8-yard catch on first down, and then came through with a 13-yard catch on third-and-10 out to the Tampa Bay 48. On second-and-15 from the 43 following a false start by Ted Larsen, Winslow drew a 21-yard pass interference penalty on middle linebacker Jon Beason. Four plays later on second-and-6 from the 20, Winslow hauled in a perfectly thrown laser from Freeman in between Beason and Godfrey, who was also flagged for pass interference on the touchdown. With 50 seconds left before halftime, the Bucs led 21-10.
The Panthers added a field goal in the third quarter to cap off a six-play, 69-yard drive that covered 2:19. Steve Smith got the drive started with a 34-yard catch down to the Tampa Bay 45. Then Goodson ran for 13 yards before being tackled by his facemask by safety Sean Jones, which tacked on 15 more yards. But the drive stalled inside the red zone and the Panthers were forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Kasay. With 4:28 left in the third quarter, Tampa Bay’s lead was cut to 21-13.
Carolina added another field goal following a 37-yard punt return by Captain Munnerlyn down to the Tampa Bay 33. The Panthers could only pick up four yards on three plays and had settle for 48-yard Kasay field goal. With 1:02 left in the third quarter, the Panthers only trailed 21-16.
Tampa Bay added a field goal of its own in the fourth quarter after covering 66 yards in 10 plays. Freeman hit Benn with a 21-yard pass and Mike Williams with a 24-yard strike down to the Carolina 35. Mike Williams hauled in an 11-yard pass on third-and-2 to move the Bucs inside the red zone, but the drive stalled and the Bucs settled for a 32-yard field goal by Connor Barth. With 10:02 left in the fourth quarter, the Bucs’ lead grew to 24-16.
Cadillac Williams’ 45-yard touchdown run on Tampa Bay’s final drive sealed the Bucs’ victory with 2:42 left in regulation. A goal line stand with seconds left in the game kept the score 31-16.STATS THAT COUNT
Rookie Dekoda Watson got his first NFL start in place of the injured Quincy Black at strongside linebacker and finished with three tackles. Adam Hayward rotated in at strongside linebacker and also finished with three tackles. … Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud recorded a team-high 10 tackles, including his first sack and initial tackle for loss of the year. … Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded the first forced fumble of his NFL career and strong safety Sean Jones recovered his first fumble as a Buccaneer. … Cadillac Williams’ 45-yard run was not only his longest of the year, it was the second-longest jaunt of his career. … The Bucs lost the turnover battle 2:1 against the Panthers but still won the game. … Cornerback Ronde Barber recorded his first sack of the season. SUNDAY’S STARTING LINEUPS
The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Sunday’s game was as follows:BUCS STARTING OFFENSE
WR Mike Williams
LT Donald Penn
LG Ted Larsen
C Jeff Faine
RG Davin Joseph
RT James Lee
TE Kellen Winslow
TE John Gilmore
WR Arrelious Benn
RB Cadillac Williams
QB Josh FreemanBUCS STARTING DEFENSE
LE Tim Crowder
DT Gerald McCoy
DT Roy Miller
RE Stylez G. White
WLB Geno Hayes
MLB Barrett Ruud
SLB Dekoda Watson
LCB Aqib Talib
RCB Ronde Barber
FS Cody Grimm
SS Sean JonesBUCS’ GAMEDAY INACTIVES
Here is a list of Tampa Bay players that did play in Sunday’s game:
QB Rudy Carpenter
FB Earnest Graham
WR Sammie Stroughter
OT Will Barker
DT Ryan Sims
DE Kyle Moore
LB Quincy Black
CB Myron LewisBUCS IN-GAME INJURIES
The Buccaneers did not have any in-game injuries.KICKOFF CONDITIONS
The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Panthers game at Raymond James Stadium was 44,264. The game was played under sunny skies with a kickoff temperature of 73 degrees and 57 percent humidity.UP NEXT
The Buccaneers (6-3) will travel to San Francisco (2-6) to face the 49ers at Candlestick Park on Sunday, November 21. Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET and will be televised on Fox.
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