Bucs DT Akeem Spence – Photo by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coaches preach all the time that most NFL games come down to a handful of plays each week.
Sometimes the fate of the rest of your season also can come down to a specific moment in a game.
While it is way too early to say a single play against the Panthers has, or will, turn around the Bucs’ fortunes in 2016, a third-down, fourth-quarter stop by defensive tackle Akeem Spence was critical in Tampa Bay’s 17-14, win and was the difference in a 2-3 start versus a crushing 1-4 start.
After the failed third-down attempt, the Panthers were forced to punt the ball back to the Bucs and the offense moved down the field and kicker Roberto Aguayo’s field goal with no time left was the game winner, as the Panthers never touched the ball again that night.
The significance of the play isn’t lost on defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
“There were probably two or three critical plays in the ball game, there always is, of course the Brent Grimes interception is the one most people talk about, but the next most critical one was that third-down stop,” Smith said. “Akeem did a great job. We had slant on and he was able to make first contact in the backfield and then the rest of the defense swarmed to the ball. But he was the first to make the hit.”
When asked about it in open locker room on Thursday, Spence smiled when telling Pewter Report how it happened.
“That play we were basically in our over front, and then tight end motioned so I was the three-technique on that play, so then moved from the three to the nose,” Spence said. “Derek Anderson gave out the snap count call. He called out, ‘Express! Express!’ I had heard it earlier in the game which knew meant they were going quick. So I took that key and pretty much ran with it. I was either going to make the play or be offsides. But I was able to beat Trae Turner to the inside and make the play for a loss.”
Someone else who appreciated the play was Bucs All-Pro Gerald McCoy, who said part of that play was made even before the game started on that Monday night.
“It was just a great play, a heads up play,” McCoy said. “He got a key indicator of what was going to happen, trusted his eyes and trusted his keys from studying the game film and knowing the little small things from the NFL. Spence was like the ironman of the game. He played hard, most of the snaps, never complained.
“Whether he had a good play, bad play or stalemate. Spence just went out there and did what he was supposed to do. And when we needed him to make a play, he made a play. It was a huge play and helped us get a win.”
McCoy said a younger player probably doesn’t make that play.
“That is a play that comes with experience. I don’t know if he would have made that as a rookie.”
Smith not only appreciates that play by Spence, but his overall effort on and off the field this season.
“He is getting a lot more snaps,” Smith said. “He has done a good job preparing and waiting for his opportunity and is making the most of it up to this point. He is having to play not only in our base package, but also our sub package as well. But because of our (injury) situation we have had to ask him to expand his role and he has accepted it and done a very nice job.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
We’re asking a lot from Spence seeing he has injury issues too the last three years. I sure hope we score a lot of points. Go Bucs!
Good for Spence! He studied, he kept his head in the game. Then made a play. I am very happy for him. Go Bucs!
I know it’s unlikely that opposing teams’ players or coaches will see that comment by Spence. But I still scratch my head as to why a player would say it out loud. I mean, he said that he heard a call by Anderson earlier in the game that he interpreted as a go quick signal. OK, I’m sure players do that all the time. But saying that he was “going on one” instead of watching the ball to either make the play or be off sides is curious to me. I wonder if that is what is taught and coached at the NFL level. As a viewer it’s maddening to see a first down from a pre-snap penalty like that. Even more so in a critical moment. I understand it’s risk vs. reward. If you don’t jump the snap count you might not make the play and he get’s the first down. I get it. However, if I was an opposing team that heard you say what you did I would try to bait you earlier in the game with a fake quick count signal then get you to jump later in the game. It probably happens anyway. I just think you should be more aware of saying things like that out loud. Take one from the Belichick school of saying nothing with lots of words.
P.S. I’m a military guy. It’s what we call OPSEC. You don’t give the enemy the information in the first place. But you absolutely don’t confirm something in a case where they think they know something already.
I have always been a spense fan but it makes me scratch my head. Is this the reason we jump offsides or get false starts that cost us?
We got it right this time but how many times have we given free first downs?
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