Schiano Era begins with REAL defense and a BucBall win.
10 Yards rushing total for the Panthers? DeAngelo Wiliams 6 carries for -1 yard? Cam Newton 5 Carries for 4 yards? Where was Superman today? The Bucs kryptonite was delivered by a gang tackling defense that played with discipline and aggression. It also doesn’t hurt when you hold the Panthers to just 49 offensive plays and 15 minutes less in possession time. They only attempted 11 running plays. This from a team that routinely hangs 200 on the Bucs and averaged 43 points a game in two beat downs of the Bucs last year. I asked coach Greg Schiano about this run defense rejuvenation and he pointed to the possession time first.
“They can’t run it if they are on the sidelines.” Said Schiano.
Gerald McCoy repeated the Schiano mantra.
“Do your job. “ McCoy said. “I’m not worried about Gerald…I’m worried about the Bucs. We were disciplined. Everybody where they were supposed to be.”
The other players I spoke with repeated the same refrain. Discipline, effort, physical, do your job. Panther coach Ron Rivera saw the same thing.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to what Coach Schiano and his staff have done with that football team. It’s solid and those guys play very hard and have responded very well to Coach Schiano’s style.”
Translation…that team was a joke last year. No discipline, no fight, no coaching. Schiano has totally transformed that group. I’m impressed. That’s what Rivera was really thinking and Bucs fans should feel the same way.
This was a hell of a debut for Schiano and this football team. They weren’t spectacular but they were extremely solid. No turnovers, very few missed tackles, only four penalties and they gave up just 2 sacks. They were much more physical offensively with Doug Martin pounding the ball 24 times for 95 yards. Martin ran right behind a Donald Penn/Carl Nicks (combined 700 pounds of fury) double team to close out the game telling me he just followed the big guys.
Offensively the Bucs did the damage in the first half wearing down the Panthers with two long drives. To open the game…an 80 yard TD drive that ate 7:20 of cock time. The next possession ate up most of the second quarter going 90 yards in 8:43 but ended with a field goal. They mixed run and pass with some creative play calls and used Vincent Jackson, Martin , Eric Lorig and Dallas Clark…four players they didn’t have or didn’t use last year. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was creative on third down and the Bucs executed the details. Josh Freeman’s numbers were solid 16-24-138 and a touchdown. But he was extremely accurate, threw on time and avoided the big mistake. A winning performance. You never got the feeling he was forcing things like last year.
Schiano said the key momentum shift came in the fourth quarter when Aqib Talib blocked a punt that set up a fourth quarter field goal and gave the Bucs a 2 score cushion. Talib also had a nice knock away in the end zone and a tipped pass that ended up in the hands of the day’s honored veteran Ronde Barber.
Barber celebrated his 200th consecutive start (most active players ) with a pick (his 44th) and a sack (his 28th most by any corner in NFL history) and perhaps the play of the game nobody will talk about. On 3rd and goal with 3 minutes left, Newton had the perfect play call…QB Draw with no linebackers in the box. Barber (5-10, 180) read the play, beat 2 blockers and knocked the 6-5 250 pound quarterback back at the 4 and forcing the field goal. Vintage Ronde!
Rookie safety Mark Barron also made a few huge plays included a horizontal touchdown saving knock away in the fourth quarter. Barron also rocked veteran WR Steve Smith a couple times. Barron told me he talked a little trash to Smith (one of the NFL’s notorious smack talks) and got no response…that’s respect!
The Bucs get a win 16-10 but it was much more than that. It was early validation to the fans and players that Schiano’s detailed, demanding and no non-sense approach can win games in the NFL. It was very Dungy-esque.. Run the ball, play defense and don’t turn it over. Buc-Ball! It may not be the most exciting but it sure beats watching the Keystone Cops of last year’s 10 game losing streak run into each other on pass routes while the ball is tipped in the air, intercepted and returned for a pick six (remember Atlanta last year!)! A very nice start…and hopefully a beginning of another championship run.