Every team faces injuries and the Buccaneers suffered another huge blow on Monday night, when backup running back Mike James fractured his ankle on Tampa Bay's first series. But the Bucs offense was rescued by veteran running back Brain Leonard and the newly acquired Bobby Rainey.
The Buccaneers finally notched their first win of the season and as several players said in the locker room following the game, it felt like a weight had been lifted from their shoulders.
And while the win wasn’t a thing of beauty, don’t try and tell that to the Bucs coaching staff and the 53 players on the active roster.
Backup running back Mike James went down with a fractured ankle on Tampa Bay’s first drive of the game after rushing for 41 yards on five carries and two other backup running backs, including a virtually unknown player, were a big part of Tampa Bay’s success on the night.
Veteran Brian Leonard and newly acquired Bobby Rainey did just enough for the Buccaneers to claim their first win of the season as the two combined for 102 yards on 28 carries.
Rainey spoke to the media after Monday night’s big win.
“I felt confident this whole week and then with the coaches feeling confident putting me in the game, my mindset was just [to] go in and do my job and protect the football,” Rainey said. “I think we run the ball [well] every week, to be honest. It’s just today, when we needed it, we got it done.”
Rainey’s 31-yard ramble in the fourth quarter set up his one-yard TD that put the Bucs back on top and ultimately secured the Bucs first win.
“I think it was power,” Rainey said. “Like coach (Earnest Byner) always taught us, stay inside the hip of the pulling guard and that’s what I did. Basically I did everything I was supposed to do and then after I get to the second level then it’s on me, that’s what he said. I just saw the seam, everybody flowing, and I just decided to cut it back.”
Another big part of the Bucs offense success came from veteran Brian Leonard who while wasn’t overly flashy, was quite effective.
“Usually my role is that third-down role, and injuries happen in this league and when Mike James went down, I knew I had to step up,” Leonard said. “I don’t think I played my best, (but) I think I was effective. )I) made some plays and some big first downs, and did what I had to do. Just doing my job I guess.”
Leonard’s 20 carries in a game was a rarity for the sixth-year running back from Rutgers.
“It has been since college (with that big of a workload),” Leonard said. “You know I really haven’t had the opportunity in the NFL. Every team I have been on, I had my role, my third-down role, and basically the running backs have stayed healthy the last six years. But injuries are part of the game though, and the next guy has to step up. Obviously, when I started to cramp up, Bobby Rainey stepped up and had a huge play. It is just part of the league. If you don’t come in and do your job, and step up, you wont be in the league that long.”
With the Buccaneers surrendering four fourth quarter leads this season, including one last week at Seattle, PewterReport.com asked Leonard what was different this week over the previous eight games.
“I think we are starting to jell as a team,” Leonard said. “We had a lot of crap happen to us as a team. Would of, could have, should have, but this team has been through a lot of crap early on this season. The most of any team that I have been on. It is tough to overcome that. But with this group of guys they never give up.”
Leonard also heaped praise on his head coach, Greg Schiano.
“I think it is kind of sad, with some of those (fire Schiano) signs,” Leonard said. “People don’t really know coach Schiano. He is the most mentally tough guy. He is the hardest worker, first one in the building and the last one to leave, every single day. It is sad to see. The fans do have a right to be upset. They are the ones who pay our salaries. We were 0-8, tonight so they have a right to be upset.
“But if they give coach Schiano time, I guarantee this program will change.”
Whether Schiano has enough games left to salvage his career is debatable, but the Buccaneers did their part in getting the first game in the win column. Schiano and the Buccaneers have seven games left to make a statement and with Doug Martin and Mike James on the shelf, they will have to do so with a veteran in Leonard and now somewhat known player in Rainey.
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