Bucs DBs Brent Grimes and Bradley McDougald – Photo by Mark LoMoglio/PR
Up until the final play – a failed two-point conversion attempt – the Bucs defense stood tall, paving the way for a 17-16 win over Carolina to clinch the team’s first winning season since 2010.
It was the story of splash plays, at critical moments, and Tampa Bay needed every single one of them to hold off the Panthers.
The secondary intercepted quarterback Cam Newton three times, all key turning points, as the pass rush forced the former league MVP off his mark and into some poor decisions during his 237-yard outing. Lavonte David added two sacks, once to force the Panthers out of field goal range and the other on third down, while Kwon Alexander’s 10 tackles led the front seven.
“Everyone stepped up today, the whole defense,” cornerback Brent Grimes said. “[Keith] Tandy had two picks and we had a lot more opportunities to get picks. We were just playing good ball today and it worked out for us.”
For his part, Grimes gave Tampa Bay its first touchdown, jumping in front a pass on the opening drive of the third quarter and jogging back 31 yards to take a 10-7 lead. That was just a highlight in the 10th-year corner’s afternoon. Grimes, one of the underrated free agent signings of 2016, also broke up a few passes in single coverage en route to earning the defensive game ball Sunday.
“When we win, we make plays,” Grimes noted. “We just have to know that that’s a big deal for us – we have to make some plays in the secondary.”
As evidence to that point, you need only to consider one of his stats. Grimes’ interception gave him four on the season. The Bucs are 4-0 in those games.
“I think everyone can see why we brought Brent Grimes here,” coach Dirk Koetter said, dishing out praise to the entire backend of the defense including Jude Adjei-Barimah and Javien Elliott. “Brent Grimes is such a ball-hawking corner. That was a big play. Keith Tandy has just been red-hot at safety. He’s been red-hot. I feel great about Vernon Hargreaves on the other side.
“That’s one area that we’ve made a lot of improvement in this year, the secondary,” Koetter continued. “The good news is we’re in good shape moving forward as well.”
Aiding the secondary’s playmaking was a steady pass rush. Though Robert Ayers was lone member of the front four credited with a sack, Newton was often on the run and forced into early decisions. Gerald McCoy broke through on occasion, while Noah Spence played through a dislocated shoulder, popping it back in himself to stay on the field.
“That doesn’t surprise me with the type of player Noah is,” Jameis Winston said. “I think I would’ve done the same thing, honestly.
“… I could talk more about the defense than any records. They had an amazing game. When you think about the five-game winning streak we had, that’s what they were doing. I’m definitely blessed that we have guys on defense who are tenacious and find a way to make plays happen.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Terrific performance by the defense at all levels. The line kept the pressure up on Newton forcing some bad throws, and our ball-hawking secondary went out and caught them, while the linebackers helped in creating pressure and even getting a couple of sacks and a bunch of run-stuffing tackles and for most of the game limiting RAC by the receivers .. that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
At this point, the down side of the defense’s progression is that Coach Smith is very likely to get offered a head coaching job, with Jacksonville being the most likely destination. Hope that the remaining members of the defensive coaching staff are ready to step up in his place.
Defense was fantastic and it sucks that we’ll likely lose coach Smith this offseason. I hate it quite frankly because now guys will be learning a whole new damn system again. Hopefully we can use someone from within to take it over. This was the most aggressive I’ve seen this defense this whole season. I’ve never seen Lavonte blitz that much. Grimes is a beast and well worth every penny we paid for him. Give us one more solid year big guy!
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