(Noted Bucs historian, Paul Stewart of Bucpower.com in England, is back with a not so sentimental look at the Bucs sorted history of traveling to Charlotte to play the Panthers. In particular, he remembers all the subplots and the eventual disaster game on Monday Night Football in 2008, that started a four game losing streak to end the year and resulted in the firing of Jon Gruden.)
Thursday night sees the Bucs and Panthers meet in a nationally-televised game on the NFL Network with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman calling the shots for the match-up of the two division rivals. They will also meet in October on the other side of the Atlantic as one of the NFL’s International Series games in London.
But in 2008, another US-wide audience saw Tampa Bay and Carolina go head-to-head with the result definitely not going the way of the Buccaneers with more long-lasting effects that first realised.
It was Monday Night Football in Charlotte and the 9-3 Bucs came into town needing one more win to make sure of their third post-season berth in four years. Only Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks remained from the Super Bowl team of 2002 but Coach Jon Gruden (above) still scowled on the sideline and Monte Kiffin was still in place as Defensive co-ordinator.
Kiffin’s son Lane had been announced as the new head coach at the University of Tennessee and rumors circulated about Monte finally leaving the defense he had nurtured for over a decade to join him Whether this had anything to do with the performance on the field remains conjecture but the end result was horrifying for Buccaneer fans.
DeAngelo Williams (19 carries, 186 yards) and Jonathan Stewart (15 carries, 115 yards) combined for 301 yards and four touchdowns. “This was embarrassing,” Buccaneer LB Barrett Ruud said. “We know we’re not that team that was out there tonight, but it is what it is.”
The Bucs had their own offensive moments with WR Antonio Bryant posting the second 200-yard receiving game in franchise history following Mark Carrier’s 1987 effort in New Orleans. Bryant had a highlight-reel touchdown pass in the fourth quarter from Jeff Garcia but within 30 seconds, another Panther ground drive reached the endzone leaving Tampa defenders sprawled across the field in its wake.
The Buccaneers would go on to lose their final three games after this Monday Night meltdown, finish out of the post-season at 9-7 and have not been close to the playoffs since. Monte Kiffin did indeed join his son in Tennessee, Jon Gruden was fired at the end of the season and another decade of despair had begun for Tampa Bay fans from that Monday Night in Carolina.
Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night
The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.
Always a pleasure watching the 🐐 https://t.co/79bRp1hoxp
— Mike Evans (@MikeEvans13_) January 19, 2020
As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.
And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.
As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.
That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.
Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.
Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.
Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.
In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move
The @Buccaneers offense is putting the smack down on this Rams D…
It’s now 45-27 after this touchdown pass to Mike Evans.
(Via – @NFLonFOX)
🗣 Comment if you played any Bucs today! pic.twitter.com/pt2QJVWbcP
— FantasyDraft (@FantasyDraft) September 29, 2019
James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.
Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.
Several Bucs and Jaguars make PFWA All Rookie Team
The Pro Football Writers Association unveiled their 2019 All-Rookie team Tuesday, and there were four state NFL players on the list.
The 2019 PFWA All-Rookie Team and rookie honors: pic.twitter.com/mmHVHWWQFx
— Pro Football Writers (@PFWAwriters) January 14, 2020
For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two of their defenders made the 11-person defensive list. First round pick outside linebacker, Devin White, who was named the Rookie of the month by the NFL for both November and December is there. White came on strong in the second half of the season, including scoring two defensive touchdowns on fumble returns down the stretch.
Also on the list was Buccaneers rookie defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting, who’s play improved as the season went on. Murphy-Bunting also recorded a game-clinching interception return for a touchdown against Detroit in December.
For the Jaguars, their first-round pick Josh Allen is also part of the all-defensive unit. Allen recorded 10.5 sacks and had another 11 tackles for loss in his inaugural season in Jacksonville. The PFWAA also placed Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor on their all rookie offensive team. Taylor was solid as a starter on the right side of the Jags line.
Although it’s not surprising is that the writers selected former number one overall pick Kyler Murray of Arizona, as their top rookie quarterback, there was an argument to be made for Jaguars rookie Gardner Minshew at that position.
Minshew won six games as a starter, including leading the Jaguars to three different last-minute victories, which was one more than what Murray had this season despite him having better stats and more starts.
PFWA did not place a Dolphin on any of their all-rookie teams. Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, whom they took in the first round, could have received some consideration as he played solidly this season.
The writers selected defensive end Nick Bosa of the 49ers, not only at their Defensive player of the year, but their overall Rookie of the Year for 2019. They did choose Oakland running back Josh Jacobs, as their offensive Rookie of the Year.
The NFL will announce its own all-rookie teams and Rookies of the year prior to the playing of Super Bowl 54 in Miami next month.
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