Tampa Bay’s 24-17 win over Indianapolis on Monday Night Football was group effort – a collective of all the pieces coming together. While it wasn’t perfect – far from it with 14 penalties for 106 yards called on the Bucs – it was a display of all of Tampa Bay’s strengths unleashed.
The Bucs defeated the Colts using all facets of their game. The punishing and dazzling style of running back LeGarrette Blount, the great decision-making of quarterback Josh Freeman, the stinging nastiness of the defensive line, and the Bucs’ “Great Wall”, which is its offensive line, all came together on national TV showing the NFL and the world why this 3-1 team is so hard to beat.
Sure it was a night riddled with penalties, especially on the offense that took 10 points off the scoreboard, but Tampa Bay won the game by any means necessary. Sometimes it takes a penalty or 20 to get the job done. Sometimes sacrificing a holding penalty in order to prevent big hits on the QB and preventing the Colts defensive line from getting comfortable and getting in a groove is worthwhile.
A look beyond the staggering amount of penalties against the Tampa Bay offense shows a glimpse of a very frustrated Colts defensive line, which at the end of the game had been poked, scratched, harassed, thrown to the ground, worn down and pestered all night by the Bucs’ “Great Wall.” These offensive linemen showed up once again against a vaunted defensive pass rush front. Defensive end Robert Mathis was shut down by right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who did give up a sack to Jerry Hughes, but future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney was shutout by left tackle Donald Penn. Freeney had zero sacks and not even a tackle, and more importantly, had no consistent pressures as he usually does.
As a whole, Tampa Bay’s O-line allowed very few QB pressures and the pressure Freeman did confront was mostly due to his receivers not being able to win their one-on-one battles and get open. Freeman once again had plenty of time in the pocket and many times dumped the ball off in the middle to running back Ernest Graham or scrambled to make productive yards and crucial first downs. The Bucs seemed to have an answer for every situation and fired on all cylinders. But the key to being able to play this type of football is due to the offensive line.
This “Great Wall” took another step towards greatness Monday Night at Raymond James Stadium. “The Great Wall” showed it could also be “The Great Bulldozers.”
Yes, the O-line bulldozed the way for Blount to amass 127 yards and a critical 35-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter on 25 carries. The Bucs actually ran the ball Monday night and were committed to it, evidenced by a season-high 36 carries against the Colts. You have to actually run the ball to get good at it and show how good of a running team you are.
All the pieces came together for Tampa Bay on Monday night. The Bucs’ trademark, methodical offensive play – filled with sound execution and pounding of the run game exasperated the Colts defense as Tampa Bay continued to march down the field while racking up a season-high 466 yards of total offense.
Yes, uncharacteristically the Bucs defense allowed themselves to get gashed by two big plays in the passing game, but throughout most of the night, Tampa Bay’s defense was applying constant pressure and sacks against Indianapolis QB Curtis Painter. And against the run, the Bucs made the Colts look as if they had no running game, allowing no huge gains and no big runs. Stuffing the run allowed the Bucs to pin their ears back and unleash a pass rush that resulted in four sacks, including two by defensive end Michael Bennett and the first of the season by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were called upon Monday night to put all the pieces to the Bucs’ puzzle back together again for the team’s third-straight win. The offense and defense put on an exhibit in front of the nation.
Sure, the victory was against a 0-3 team without its all-world field commander in Peyton Manning, and a makeshift Colts offensive line that started backups and journeymen. Regardless of the level of competition these Bucs have played against week after week, their blueprint on how they go about winning games is the same by winning in the fourth quarter.
I, for one, can’t wait for the Bucs to face another top-tier team like the Houston Texans or the undefeated Green Bay Packers. But for now, they will go on the road to the West Coast to face the surprisingly 3-1 San Francisco 49ers where the Pacific Standard Time zone has proven to be Tampa Bay’s biggest nemesis in years past outside of a 21-0 shutout last season. I believe these “Youngry” Bucs will stay hungry and ride this momentum and keep on winning. Buc Nation, you should be encouraged and excited about the future of our Buccaneers.
Chidi Ahanotu was an NFL defensive end for 12 seasons, including eight with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993-2000). Ahanotu is the fifth all-time leading sacker in Buccaneers history with 34.5 QB captures. His career-high 10 sacks in 1997 helped the Bucs make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and led to him being Tampa Bay's franchise player in 1998.
Aside from being a columnist for PewterReport.com, Ahanotu is the owner of Cigars of Soho, which is located at 212 S. Armenia Ave. in Tampa, Fla. To visit the Cigars of Soho Facebook page, click here. Cigars of Soho is open until midnight every night.
Cigars of Soho is the only South Tampa cigar lounge open after dinner to enjoy a nice cigar. Wednesday night is poker night at 9:00 p.m., and the lounge has NFL games on high definition TV on Sunday and Monday nights.