We know, we know, you’ve heard this line before: Even in a loss, there are some diamonds in the rough that deserve recognition. But, it’s true! The Buccaneers, particularly their defense, played their part today, and they had some unexpected heroes in their matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

These were our most impressive Bucs from the 17-3 loss at Raymond James Stadium.

S Chris Conte

Yes, Chris Conte.

Conte was second on the team in tackles today with nine and also had the Bucs’ only turnover in the form of an interception to start the third quarter. Conte has been splitting time in a rotation with T.J. Ward and Justin Evans, but has usually been listed as the starter.

Conte has had some rough games here and there over the last two years, but today he was one of the bright spots on a defense that did their job.

LB Kwon Alexander

Kwon Alexander had a rough first game back from his hamstring injury in Buffalo last weekend. He was asked to spy quarterback Tyrod Taylor and looked timid doing so, giving up too many yards in the process.

This week we saw a different player, the player we’re used to seeing wearing No. 58. Alexander led the team in tackles with 10 and had two tackles for loss as well. He was much more instinctive to the ball both in the run and when containing Cam Newton. Alexander looked like he was on track towards being the player they need him to be for the rest of the season.

CB Vernon Hargreaves

Leading up to the Bucs game versus the Panthers, the big question marks surrounding the team was their two starting cornerbacks, Brent Grimes and Robert McClain, who were both missing practice time due to injury.

As Friday’s practice came to pass, it was announced that both would be out. That meant that Vernon Hargreaves would be once against playing on the outside, a place where he had struggled earlier in the year.

But, this time around, Hargreaves shined. The Panthers looked his way early, like the Giants tried to do, but Hargreaves held his own. He wasn’t beat much, and even when he was, he didn’t yield catches.

CB Ryan Smith

The other player set to replace Grimes and McClain’s absence on the outside was Ryan Smith.

Smith started for the injured Grimes in Week 2 against Minnesota and did not have a good day. Today, however, he, too, shined. He had a great pass break up deep down the field on Curtis Samuel, showing off his great straight line and recovery speed and held Kelvin Benjamin to just one catch on his side in the first half.

He and Hargreaves were thought to be the Achilles heel of this defense on this day, but turned out to be Achilles’ sword instead.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
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Mike.Seven
Mike.Seven
4 years ago

Only good news The defence held the Panthers to 17 points even with this pathetic offence.
who keep bringing the defence back out on field time and time again.

Horse
Horse
4 years ago

It doesn’t make any difference who you put down at this point already. So other than the interception what did Conte really do? What I saw once again the DE’s did nothing. DL 11-12 tackles; LB 15 tackles, DB 25 tackles. Stat’s mean nothing, we lost. The question I have is what did they do on 3rd down? Hargraves finally got to play the left corner which I believe is his natural position, not the right side. I believe it was the side he mainly played at Florida.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Horse
4 years ago

Horse, I gotta hand it to you. No matter what the outcome, you always focus all your complaints on the defense. In a game where the offense managed to score just 3 points at home, and the defense held the opponent’s offense to a couple points less than their season average to date, how can you wanna just slam the defense? SMH

The offense totally sucked yesterday, it is clear the offense lost the game, the defense did its job, and special teams did their job. The offense failed to show up.

Horse
Horse
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

Naplesfan; okay let me say this about the Offense because you seem to think for me it’s all about the Defense which it mostly is at this point. I thought Winston played awful; his shoulder injury is effecting him, but that shouldn’t alter his thinking as to who is open and who isn’t. The OL wasn’t very good and Winston was under a lot of pressure. Most importantly I thought Head Coach called a crappy game which didn’t help Winston at all considering his shoulder injury. Every open series of every game Koetter has Winston throw one of those very… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Horse
4 years ago

That’s better, Horse. My point is that it takes a team effort to produce a bad season. It is never just one or a couple of “villain” players, like so many fans want to do (last week it was all “Fire Hargreaves” .. the week before it was “Fire the kicker” and “fire the playcaller”. This week it’s what? Who is left, exactly, who is not a “villain” of the story? It starts at the top, always. That’s where blame must always begin, though it must also be shared down the line to all the players who underperform. When every… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

I agree with you it takes a whole team performance and we seem to be beating ourselves most times. I’ll try to keep it more balance. I do believe having high draft picks in the DL & OL positions is the biggest bang for our buck.

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

The Defense did play well. It seemed like Carolina would start a drive near mid field all game.

James Wheeler
James Wheeler
4 years ago

The corners played good,the offensive line played bad, predictable play calling dropped balls and over and under throws killed us

Horse
Horse
Reply to  James Wheeler
4 years ago

Yes, I agree that too. In the paper today Sapp and Dungy both said the Bucs haven’t learned how to win yet. This team is just not in sync and it’s not going to get any easier the rest of the season. We only have two more days to make some trades. Please don’t use any of our draft picks to make any trades, but feel free to use any of our players to exchange for other players.

Dman
Dman
Reply to  Horse
4 years ago

Trade our players to accumulate draft picks. Season is essentially over. Our big name players aren’t making plays in crunch time. McCoy should have been traded to Jax. He’ll help another team get into the playoffs, but done with this guy.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Dman
4 years ago

I thought we accumulated draft picks the last four years?

What good is accumulating draft picks when the team doesn’t know how to use them?

The Browns are great at accumulating draft picks, more than any other team since the ’89 Cowboys … but they are still mired in the toilet. We are not far behind the Browns.

Randy H.
Randy H.
4 years ago

In the first quarter, I mentioned to my friend how Hargreaves was playing a lot closer to the line this game. Wouldn’t you know, that was the play that he drew the offensive pi call on. But as the game went on, he went back to his normal 5-7 yards off of the line, though he didn’t get burned like he usually does.

owlykat
owlykat
4 years ago

Horse you are on to something. Hargraves should be left on the left side, and Ryan Smith who I felt could one day replace Grimes when he retires, really showed he has that potential.
If the Bucs dump Licht and invest in a good GM this team can turn around.

scubog
scubog
4 years ago

I too was encouraged by the play of Hargreaves and Ryan Smith. I also see some positive signs from Justin Evans. Coaches must see it too since #21 is keeping Tandy on the bench.

Patrick Murray did well on his one kick.

BUC 727
BUC 727
Reply to  scubog
4 years ago

Yea, Evans had Tandy on the bench when he gave up the Peewee league TD to Benjamin.

bucism1
bucism1
4 years ago

where the hell is the tandy man?…the defense played so much better when he was inserted into the games…what is he at the bottom of the depth chart back there,,,,crazy…he would have never given up the td the way justin evans did

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
4 years ago

Ryan Smith played a lot better, VHIII was the beneficiary of some errant passes and still missed a few assignments in the run game but he was in the vicinity to make some plays in the passing game. I still think a more accurate QB will beat him but hopefully he builds off this game.

BUC 727
BUC 727
4 years ago

The bottom line is that the defense played well enough to win. There was only one glaring bad play by Justin Evans.
Offensively, there was so much blame that you cannot point out one phase, player or play. But if pressed, penalties by the O-line were offensive.