Bruce Arians spoke to the Tampa media on Friday following the Bucs’ 20-14 win over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.
It was a tough, one-score contest that all came down to a 4th-and-short with less than two minutes remaining. The defense stood tall, keeping the Panthers out of the end zone all night, and Jameis Winston had a much-needed rebound performance after the team’s loss to the 49ers last Sunday.
“After watching the film I was very, very pleased with how hard we played,” Arians said. “There’s the old saying that, whoever plays harder the longest will win games and I think it was true in that one. Was it perfect? By no means, but we made enough plays to win the ball game.”
Game balls were awarded to Chris Godwin, Peyton Barber, Kevin Minter for stepping in and leading the defense, Vernon Hargreaves and Shaq Barrett.
Arians also added some good news on the injury front to rookie middle linebacker Devin White, saying that he was walking without a brace and that his return for Week 3 isn’t ruled out, but nothing is for sure yet. The MRI showed a grade one MCL strain for the Bucs’ first-round pick, according to Arians.
The defense has been the star of the show for the Bucs’ these past two weeks, allowing just one touchdown throughout the first two weeks. It’s night and day when compared to the defensive performances Bucs’ fans have become accustomed to in years past, but Arians isn’t surprised by the significant turnaround given what he’s seen from working with defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
“I watched him do it in Arizona, and we knew we had talent and speed here, but he’s just an amazing teacher,” Arians said. “If you’ve ever had the privilege of being on the headset with him, he’s calling out the plays before they’re run and telling guys, ‘they’re coming.’ Sometimes we still don’t stop them but he’s telling them what’s happening. He’s very, very, very sharp.”
The run game has also seen improvements, specifically when running a zone blocking scheme, with Ronald Jones having the best performance of his career in Week 1 and Barber taking 23 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. Despite all of the talent that the team has out wide, Arians insists that the Bucs are now a run-first team.
“I think Harold [Goodwin] and Joe [Gilbert] do a great job with those guys,” The Bucs’ head coach said. “They’re always harping and harping on technique, we don’t need to ask for effort. We can finish better and once we start finishing better I think we’ll get even better runs but it’s just solid coaching and knowing that we are a run-first team.”
Another interesting point Arians touched on was the penalty the Bucs took after the coaching staff called two consecutive time outs, that pushed the Panthers to fourth down with less than a yard to get, insisting that there was some confusion between him and Bowles and that they were lucky to make a play after that.
“It’s fourth down, let them come up and show us what you’re doing, and we call a time out,” Arians said. “Todd didn’t know I had already called a time out and I got caught up in the heat of it. We got dumb ass luck, that’s what it was. We put them in short yardage and they changed the play. Not that we wouldn’t have stopped the other play but we’re really lucky it wasn’t a first down.”