Bucs RB Jacquizz Rodgers – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Tampa Bay Bucs’ 2016-17 season ended with a 17-16 win over the NFC South rival Carolina Panthers.
Ending the New Year’s Day special was a failed Carolina two-point conversion with 17 seconds left. With postseason implications nonexistent for both teams, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera opted to go for two rather than a game-tying extra point attempt after quarterback Cam Newton hit receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a 5-yard touchdown. Newton targeted Greg Olsen in the front of the end zone for the win, but the tight end slipped and Bucs safety Bradley McDougald was there to make sure he couldn’t recover.
Technically, the Bucs entered Sunday with mathematical postseason potential. Other than handling their business against Carolina, they needed six other scenarios to play out. Two of those – Indianapolis over Jacksonville and Tennessee over Houston – did happen. But Dallas’ loss to Philadelphia officially ended Tampa Bay’s season.
Sunday’s victory allowed the Bucs to finish with their first winning season (9-7) since going 10-6 in 2010. It also avoided a demoralizing three-game skid to end the season a year after closing out with four straight defeats.
Neither team looked particular sharp throughout their season finales, but the Bucs got the final points it would need in record-breaking fashion. Quarterback Jameis Winston broke a 10-10 tie with 3:13 remaining when he hit receiver Mike Evans for a 10-yard score in the front-left corner of the end zone. The touchdown allowed Winston to set a new franchise record for scoring passes in a year (28). The strike also allowed Evans to tie his team record for 12 touchdown receptions in a single season.
The completion prior to the 10-yard score to Evans, a 17-yard hookup with receiver Adam Humphries, allowed Winston to surpass former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman’s 2012 single-season record of 4,065 passing yards. Winston finished his sophomore campaign with 4,090 yards through the air and also became the first quarterback in NFL history to top 4,000 yards in his first two seasons. Winston needed 267 yards to break Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s NFL record of 8,196 yards during his first two seasons. Winston remains number two in that category at 8,132, which is 212 yards ahead of Newton in third place.
Considering Sunday’s low-scoring affair, though, most Bucs highlights came on the defensive side of the ball.
Safety Keith Tandy wrapped up his late-season surge with a two interceptions and a game-high 12 tackles. Linebacker Lavonte David pushed his season sack total to five by twice getting Newton to the ground. Defensive end Robert Ayers recorded the other of Tampa Bay’s three sacks, letting the Bucs finish with 38 on the year. That matches their total from last season.
Also starring in secondary Sunday was cornerback Brent Grimes. The first-year Buc broke up a season-high four passes, including a third-quarter pick-6. On the second play of the second half, Grimes stepped in front of a Newton pass intended for receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and returned it 31 yards to give the Bucs a 10-7 lead. Grimes ends the 2016 season with a team-high in passes defensed (24) and tied Tandy with interceptions (4).
Carolina owned a time-of-possession advantage of almost five minutes and outgained Tampa Bay 335-300. The Bucs’ 3-2 edge in the turnover battle proved critical, even though they failed to take advantage of their opportunities.
Tandy’s first interception late in the first half was followed up by a missed 46-yard field goal by kicker Roberto Aguayo and the safety’s second pick resulted in a blocked Aguayo attempt from 48 yards out. Aguayo capped the Bucs’ game-opening drive with a 33-yard conversion but ended the day 1 of 3 and ended his rough rookie season 22 of 31 overall (71.0 percent).
Both Bucs turnovers were charged to Winston (20 of 35 for 202 yards, touchdown, interception). The first came when his quick pass to Adam Humphries bounced off the receiver’s arm and into the hands of Panthers cornerback James Bradberry. Tampa Bay’s next drive ended when Winston fumbled after being hit from behind by defensive end Wes Horton.
Humphries set a career-high by catching 10 of his 13 targets Sunday. His 94 receiving yards were a game-high and came six yards shy of tying his career-best of 100 that he set Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Evans’ day ended with five catches on 11 targets for 65 yards and the touchdown.
Running back Jacquizz Rodgers got his second straight start and averaged 4.4 yards per carry while rushing for 75 yards on 17 attempts.
With incumbent starter Doug Martin missing multiple games this season because of injury and then seeing his season come to an end by a performance-enhancing drug suspension this past week, Rodgers ended up finishing as the team’s leading rusher. Rodgers gained 560 yards and two touchdowns on 129 carries.
We won! A well fault game where defense was the name of the game for the Bucs! It’s obvious we need help on the offensive side and hopefully free agency and the draft will make us better as we have one serious schedule in 2017. Right now, Happy New Year to everyone! 9-7 feels better than 8-8. Okay Pewter Report start bragging as you were spot on with your preiction. Go Bucs!
Congrats on the winning season bucs! Now it’s time to heal and get ready for some new additions to this team. Today was an ugly game but the defense showed out. Grimes was fantastic and Tandy is no doubt in line for a starting role and a new contract. Now it’s time to focus on our draft and the very very long offseason. Already missing my Sunday ritual. Go bucs and 2017 is our year!
The bucs are a winning team. Our Coach will get to stay, We will probably be looking at getting another Defensive Coach, but all in all with the Injuries and so forth, This was a good season. Bucs have a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but if we can have another successful draft and maybe pick up a starter or two in Free Agency, we could be a formidable team next year. I am excited. Winston stayed upright most of the year, and if we don’t lose Glennon in free agency, we probably will not have to look for a back up, but just about every other position on offense needs help. I never saw that coming. This is a defensive draft coming up,so strategy in this draft will be essential. Go bucs!
In my mind there is a big difference between 9-7 and 8-8 so I’m happy to get the win. Like the last win against the Panthers this season it wasn’t a pretty win, but a win nonetheless. Now we can look to the offseason and focus on the draft and FA in hopes of drastically improving this team. Go Bucs!
Congrats to our Bucs on their winning season. The Anger signing is a good start to what will be an historic off-season. Go Bucs!
Nice to have a winning season but if I have to be honest I think that is a game Carolina lost more than we won. Confidence is good and as we move into the off season I think we can take the just wins (like today) shore up our deficiencies and make them good wins next year. That I think is the telling year, not so much this.
Great way to end what has been a damn good season. Huge enthusiastic crowd got what they paid for today. Exciting game from beginning to end and fans left VERY fired up.
It’s important for the players coaches and fans to feel like how it can be as we move forward.
Positives, positives, positives. Well, except for those hoping for a loss to move up a couple of slots in the draft. But they don’t really count and certainly were not in attendance today.
Great way to end the season. We definitely have alot of work to do on offense and defense. I would say trade down alot and take best player available, but off the top of my head I would say we need 2 OL, 2 WRS, a backup RB, another TE, 2 DL, a safety, a CB, and a Kutcher. But with Jameis, we have hope and we should continue to improve. Go Bucs!
A win is a win is a win regardless of how it was achieved. I was pleased that the Bucs were in it to win it and were not of the mindset of just getting through the game. Panthers also showed good effort. Like my friend Pink said, 9-7 is a lot better than 8-8 and certainly a lot better than 6-10 and a new coaching staff on the horizon.
Panthers had a decent contingent of fans, but unlike most, at least they probably traveled from the Carolinas and not Bradenton or Lakeland.
One of the things I noticed in this game was the lack of speed at the skill positions as compared to the Panthers. That is clearly something Licht needs to address this off-season. I know some here think improving the O-line should be a priority and I agree that the area needs to be evaluated. But to me Jameis had plenty of time to throw the ball if his receivers could get open sooner. To me the offense would improve if we had ball carriers and receivers who were capable of taking it the distance. To me, Rodgers (a player no one would consider elite) has proved the O-line can open sufficient holes.
I believe the 2016 season and this never quit team has at the very least piqued the fan’s interest. Fans here often identify more with players they like than the generations long loyalty to the team like the Steelers. Guys like Evans, Brate, David, McCoy (unless he smiles), Alexander, Hargreaves, an emerging Tandy, and of course Jameis will become more and more popular as the team improves. Perhaps even close to the status of Brooks, Sapp, Barber, Lynch and Alstott.
Very glad to have it end in a W – it always beats the hell out of an L, no matter what the circumstances or the opponent.
Offensively for the Bucs, it was painful to watch for the most part. A single offensive touchdown, were it not for Brent Grimes we would have gotten beaten badly at home. I hope people reflect on that a bit. Grimes has been one of the least appreciated members of the team this season.
BTW – Grimes finished the season leading the league in passes defensed, finishing with 24 (he was tied for the league lead coming into the game). Plus his 4 INTs. Plus his mentoring of our younger members of the secondary. To me, Grimes was the Bucs MVP this season.
Defensively, the game was an “all hands on deck” exercise, combining pressure on the quarterback from both the line and the LBs (David mostly) with excellent ball-hawking by the secondary with special kudos to both Grimes and Tandy.
This may well have been the farewell performance of Coach Smith – who seems a likely candidate to be hired as head coach in Jacksonville in the next 48 hours.
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