Good afternoon sports fans, here's a quick report from Raymond James Stadium on the events that transpired last night in the GOTW where the Carolina Panthers travelled to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In good weather the Panthers won the toss and chose kick off in order to get the ball at the start of the second half. With the ball first the Bucs methodically moved the ball downfield through the air and on the ground, then a drop on 3rd and short by Kellen Winslow meant a big decision, attempt a 57yd field goal or go for it...they went for it and Freeman connected with Benn to give a 1st down deep in Panthers territory. Here the drive would stall and a FG attempt ensued, missed wide right (Coach Daz blamed the slow kick meter online).
The Panthers took over and Cam immediately took a few shots downfield to no avail. After maybe 1 first down they were forced to punt. Tedd Ginn took the ball back to inside the Panthers half giving the Bucs great field position. Freeman went to work and moved the ball through the air down to the 3 yard line where the ball was promptly given to Legerrate Blount who rumbled in from 3 yards out, 7-0 Bucs.
The Panthers next series was as ineffective as their first, sacks on the first 2 downs left Newton needing 20+ yards to convert on 3rd and long. Alas, the pass to Steve Smith came up short. The punt again left the Bucs in great field position and after another balanced drive on 3rd and Goal from the 9, Freeman hit Blount on a screen pass for the score. After trading possessions and a 41 yard FG from Schneider the Panthers had 1 min 27 secs to salvage something from the first half. Cam finally got the offense working, hitting Gettis and Fobbs a few times and 1 key scramble from the QB himself. On 3rd and Goal with time running out Fobbs got wide open in the EndZone for a 3yd score. 17-7 at HT
In the second half Cam decided that passing from the pocket wasn't working and started moving around to evade the Bucs pass rush. The Panthers first drive looked good but was stopped in its tracks by an interception from the Bucs' most recent addition, rookie CB Bryant Edwards. The rest of the 3rd Quarter was dominated by defense with both teams punting a couple of times putting the opposition in poor field position.
The stalemate was broken by the Panthers as Cam really started to cause the Bucs D trouble. Running for his life and moving the chains with his own legs and some key passes to Gettis/Fobbs/Smith. He connected with Gettis on a crossing route for the 19 yd score bringing the Panthers within an field goal, 17-14 with only 6 minutes to go.
On the first play of the Bucs drive the OC rolled the dice and went deep to Winslow for a 51 yard gain, tackled from behind on his way for a TD. Some big plays by the Panthers D held the Bucs to a 55yd FG attempt, which Schneider slotted home with ease.
What happened next was the dream of football screen writers everywhere, the Panthers had to go the length of the field in 4 minutes to win the game and take charge of the division. Having moved the ball with ease on his last few drives Newton was clearly confident, moving the pocket and scrambling around to operate the offense. A screen pass to Williams, a few runs himself and a pass or two to Smith/Fobbs led to the Panthers having 1st and goal at the Bucs 9 yd line with 30 seconds left. A 8 yard run from Newton towards the pylon where he was narrowly pushed out of bounds meant the Panthers had 4th and Goal at the 1 yard line. Coming out in a goalline formation, the ball was handed off to Blanchard the big full back. A TD would surely ensue, but a bigtime play from FS DeAires Justice breaking through the line and literally throwing the 261lb full back to the floor meant the Panthers came up just short.
2 runs from Blount led to a first down and the Bucs knelt out the clock. The fans inside the stadium were treated to a feast of tactical football which resulted in a nail-biting win for the now 10-1 Buccaneers, final score 20-14 Bucs.