Jacquizz Rodgers was already beginning to feel the effects of his busiest workday as an NFL running back when Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter handed him the game ball following the Bucs 17-14 win over the Panthers on Monday night.
Another division road win… Another locker room speech & celebration! #SiegetheDay
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) October 11, 2016
“I’m a little sore right now,’’ Rodgers told reporters a few minutes later.
Not to worry. With a bye week just ahead and Doug Martin expected back in time for the Bucs return to action in San Francisco two weeks from now, Rodgers has plenty of time to rest up from what will likely be a cameo appearance as the Bucs lead ball carrier.
What a cameo it was, though.
Rodgers, who had never run the ball more than 18 times in a game before Monday, ran the ball 30 times for 101 yards and caught five passes for 28 more for a total of 129 yards from scrimmage, the most for a Buccaneers back all season.
The majority of Rodgers carries, meanwhile, came in the first half, when he ran the ball 17 times for 71 yards, including 10 times during the opening drive, which resulted in Roberto Aguayo kicking a 35-yard field goal to give the Bucs a 3-0 lead.
Those 10 carries were the most for a Bucs back on an opening drive since at least 2001 and tied for the most by an NFL back on an opening drive since 2001, according to ESPN Stats and Information. And the residual effects proved crucial, Koetter said.
“Jacquizz’s first half was huge for us,’’ Koetter said. “He gave us a chance to let (quarterback) Jameis (Winston) settle into the game and that was important.’’
Wisnton settled in rather well, completing 18 of 30 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he didn’t give the ball away as the Bucs won the turnover battle 4-0 in a victory Rodgers says has the power to propel the Bucs to another level.
“That’s the win we needed, the spark we needed to get things rolling around here,’’ he said.
The spark came from Rodgers.