Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Getty Images
Another agonizing night for Tampa Bay Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo ended in celebration.
The scrutinized rookie kicker that missed two more chances Monday night in Carolina stepped up when it mattered most. Quarterback Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense put together enough of a late drive in the game’s final two minutes to set up Aguayo’s 38-yard game winner and the 22-year-old nailed it.
“It meant the world,” Aguayo said to ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters minutes after the kick. “With the way the game played out, there were a couple kicks that I missed. At the end of the day you have to go back to fundamentals.
“You just have to go back and trust your stuff and do it.”
Aguayo tested Bucs fans’ faith again Monday by bouncing a 33-yarder off the right upright in the second quarter and pulling a 46-yarder wide left in the fourth with the game knotted at 14-14. Mixed in with the misses were a pair of 35-yard makes that put Tampa Bay up 6-0 in the first half prior to the game winner.
Both teams entered Monday banged up and relying heavily on reserves and it was the Bucs that managed to cobble together just enough key plays to win a tight, low-scoring affair.
Stepping up in a big way was backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Starter Doug Martin remained out and the team sent Charles Sims III to injured reserve earlier in the day, thrusting Rodgers into the starting role. The sixth-year veteran answered by rushing 30 times for 101 yards and catching five passes for another 28.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and the offense let Carolina know early there were no intentions to abandon the run, handing off to Rodgers the first six snaps of the game.
The Cam Newton-less Panthers were looking to beat the Bucs with Derek Anderson under center for the third time in three years. Despite a pass rush hampered by multiple injuries along the defensive line and allowing Anderson to complete 18 of 28 passes for 278 yards, Tampa Bay picked him off twice and caused him to lose a fumble.
Cornerback Brent Grimes and linebacker Daryl Smith recorded their first interceptions as Buccaneers and Tampa Bay won the turnover battle 4-0. The Bucs needed each and every one and Grimes’ leaping pick in the end zone may have been the biggest. Tied 14-14 with 8:39 remaining in the game, Anderson went to tight end Greg Olsen in the end zone on first-and-goal from the 1 and Grimes snared the ball out of the air.
The Bucs failed to capitalize with Aguayo missing from 46 yards, but the defense forced a three-and-out to regain possession just inside the two-minute mark. Two third-down completions by Winston helped move Tampa Bay into Carolina territory and then a big-time blunder by Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy made Aguayo’s high-pressure moment a little easier. Ealy’s 15-yard facemask penalty on Rodgers moved the line of scrimmage from the 32 to the 17 with less than 20 seconds to play. After one more snap by Winston to line up the kick, Aguayo took care of the rest.
Winston finished the night 18 of 30 for 219 yards with no interceptions and a 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Evans (six catches for 89 yards). That third-quarter score was capped by Winston’s 2-point conversion completion to receiver Adam Humphries and tied the game at 14-all.
Both of Carolina’s touchdowns were scored by backup running back Cameron Artis-Payne in the third quarter. The Panthers trailed 6-0 heading into halftime and couldn’t get on the board right before the break because of Graham Gano’s 43-yard missed field goal. Helping keep Carolina from scoring any points on the drive was Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander’s pass break up at the goal line. Anderson hit Olsen nine times for 181 yards, but that was one of the four attempts that fell incomplete.
Carolina outgained Tampa Bay 414-315, but the Bucs converted 6 of 15 third downs compared to 1 of 8 for the Panthers and won the time of possession battle by over eight minutes.
In the division, that is.
Tampa Bay’s win bumps its record to 2-3 overall and 2-0 in the NFC South. It also knocks the defending NFC champion Panthers down to 1-4 overall, 0-2 in the division, and in sole possession of last place.
Tampa Bay entered Monday night on a six-game losing streak against Carolina and put an end to the skid. The Bucs’ last win came with a 27-21 victory in Charlotte in 2012. That capped a two-game sweep of the Panthers that year.
Injuries have decimated Tampa Bay this season and the defensive front was hit hard Monday night.
Defensive end William Gholston was the only regular starting on the line. He was joined by rookie end DaVonte Lambert, rookie tackle Channing Ward and veteran backup tackle Akeem Spence.
The unit and their substitutions struggled to pressure Anderson, not only registering no sacks but failing to get even a single quarterback hit.
Lambert (four tackles) did come up with a big play in the fourth when he knocked the ball loose from Anderson on a scramble. It was third-and-4 and Anderson had enough for the first down, but Lambert’s hit and Gholston’s recovery stopped Carolina’s drive inside Tampa Bay territory.
Tampa Bay gets to enjoy its bye week coming off a win.
The next time they step on a field for game day it’ll be in San Francisco for a 4:05 p.m. start against the 49ers.
I”m a FSU and Cowboys fan, so it was nice to see Winston and the Bucs pull it out. Btw, Koetter’s playcalling seems uneven and he should stop sending Humphries deep, He should be running routes like Dallas’ Beasley.
Anyway, congrats Bucs fans!!
The agonizing night belongs to Jason Licht.
Aguayo didn’t trade up to draft himself in round two. He didn’t leave the cupboard bare at WR so he could target himself over a kicker who converted a higher % of FG’s attempted the year before. That was “No-biscuit” Licht.
I’m glad the rookie could make one on his third try. Maybe the confidence from that kick will carry over.
This is the first time I have been proud of this team in a long time. Maybe the Superbowl year. This was a gritty performance with many 2nd and 3rd teamer’s playing. Rodgers played like his hair was on fire. I hope all the starters sitting on the bench learned something. The smelly panthers were depleted also, but there front 7 was intact. The only major player out was the punk superman.
Aguayo hit on the game winner, but that doesn’t erase the rest of the night or the season for that matter. It shouldn’t be a crap shoot everytime the kicker steps on the field. It’s time we look at other options, if Aguayo starts being more consistent then give him another shot. The coaching staff needs to figure out what it is in this kid’s head that’s killing his game and until they fix it, we need more consistency.
An ugly, ugly….ugly win but a win nonetheless. I’ll take it but Aguayo needs to go and I mean before the next game. I couldn’t care less that he made that last kick from a few feet away and that we won the game against a lousy team because of it.
Pink I understand completely about our kicker. There’s. I excuse to miss as many as he has. You call the panthers a lousy team yet our bucs played without any of our starting defensive line intact, two running backs out and they still played their heart out. We all know we have a ton of pieces to fill. We need someone besides mike Evans at wide receiver. No one is getting separation. The play calling was also a little suspect at times but a win in the NFL is a win. The bye week came at a perfect time and at least we can say that we are still perfect in our own division. 2-3 against that brutal schedule…..I’ll take it.
We got the win and the players played beyond most of our expectations. Go Bucs!
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