(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 pass rusher Barrett named NFC Defensive Player of Week
Off their impressive Road win last Thursday night against division rival Carolina, the Buccaneers also got an individual accolades on Wednesday morning.
That’s when the NFL announced that edge pass-rusher Shaq Barrett had been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week:
And it's only the beginning.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 18, 2019
Barrett had a tremendous game, or should we say third quarter specificall, in the win over the Panthers. This as, he registered not one, but three quarterback sacks, in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 20 – 14 victory.
Barrett became the first Buccaneer since Simeon Rice in their Super Bowl season of 2002 to have that many sacks in a single 15 minute period. He’s also the first Bucs pass rusher to get three sacks in a single game since the 2015 season.
Barrett also had a sack in Tampa Bay’s week one loss against San Francisco and obviously, leads them now with four of them through the first two games. The four sacks in two games has matched the best start in sacking the QB in Buccaneers franchise history.
The last time the Bucs had a defensive player win player of the week honors, was also 2015. That’s when linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander each took home the honor in separate weeks.
The six year veteran came to Tampa Bay after having spent his first five years with the Denver Broncos. This included his being part of the Broncos Super Bowl 50 winning season of 2014.
Barrett had 14 career sacks coming into this season and is already thriving early in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense. The Bucs are pairing him on the outside with Carl Nassib in Bowles’ 3-4 scheme.
He is also the former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year at Colorado State, where he had 12 sacks and three forced fumbles in his senior season and was eventually signed with Denver, as an undrafted free agent.
Bucs coach Arians rightfully fearing Giants RB Saquon Barkley
Regardless of the Giants starting rookie Daniel Jones at quarterback on Sunday, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians knows the real key for New York resides deeper in their backfield.
That’s where second-year running back Saquon Barkley is expected to be busy, especially early in the game. And, he may very well be the reason or not that New York has a chance to get their first win of the season Sunday in Tampa.
Arians made it clear right away at his Tuesday press conference that Barkley will be a challenge for a Buccaneer defense that has been stingy so far this year against the run:
"I’ve had the confidence all along… We have to practice the same this week, after a win, as we did after a loss. The sense of urgency can’t leave."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 17, 2019
“He’s got more 50-yard runs than anybody I’ve seen in a long time,” Arians said. “He’s hard to bring down. He doesn’t run over many people – he runs around them and runs past them. The size and the speed combination are extremely rare.”
The Bucs held the 49ers in check for just 77 yards on the ground in their opening loss two weekends ago, but then, played even better against Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers running attack last Thursday night. They held McCaffrey to only 37 yards on 16 carries, including the biggest moment of the game. That’s when DB Vernon Hargreaves stopped McCaffrey one-on-one from getting the one needed yard to keep Carolina’s final drive alive and hopes of winning the game.
As for Barkley, he comes off a tremendous debut season with a 1,300 yards rushing and another 700 receiving. He’s arguably the best dual threat back in football.
And, with a 120 yd rush game on just 11 carries in the opening week game at Dallas, Barkley followed up with another 100 yard game last week against Buffalo registering 107 yards on 18 carries. Still, the Giants dropped both games and at 0- 2 and have decided to shake it up at QB.
Giants second-year coach Pat Shurmur will try to establish the run early on in the game to take the pressure off his rookie quarterback making his debut.
The Bucs know that as well and looked at stuff to run with Pro Bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh and former first-round pick Vita Vea. Both guys have been big keys in clogging up the middle and helping the Buccaneers stop the 49er and Panther backs.
And if they do so Sunday at home, it will be a big key for a second straight win.
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