Besides the game, one of the best (or worst) parts of football seasons are Monday mornings.
Any football fan will tell you, whether it’s in school, at work, or on your favorite sports talk show— Monday mornings are for bragging rights, armchair quarterbacks, and “Did you see when?!” This Monday morning, Bucs’ fans giving a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the game will start with the—
First quarter- Tampa Bay’s opening drive was the perfect embodiment of the team’s season. The Bucs’ offense started fast, moving the ball and showing the potential of some of the unit’s players. Ultimately, much like Tampa Bay’s season, the drive was stalled by user error. An offensive pass interference penalty on Rachaad White and then a drop by rookie receiver Trey Palmer. After the Bucs stalled, Bryce Young engineered a quick punt and then the Bucs exploded. A 40-yard deep pass to certified legend Mike Evans, put the Bucs in scoring range for Rachaad White’s second rushing touchdown in the last three games.
The Tampa Bay Bucs had a seven-point lead and the Florida sky unleashed. A downpour ensued, ensuring ugly conditions for the remainder of the half.
Second quarter- As the rain fell, so did what was left of the Bucs’ linebacker depth. Tampa came into Sunday’s game with their depth as thin as a sheet of loose-leaf paper and that piece of paper was ripped in half when the second quarter began with a sideline shot of K.J. Britt being carted into the the team’s locker room.
Following a productive Carolina drive, deep into Tampa Bay territory, which resulted in a short field goal— Mother Nature asserted herself as a major determining factor in the game. Dropped passes, bad throws, ball carriers slipping, offense became a battle against the on-field climate as much as any on-field opponent.
The weather conditions forced these stunted NFC South offenses to trade punts on a loop, providing one of the least memorable second quarters of any NFL game this season, until halftime mercifully interrupted the stalemate.
**Halftime stats check**
Neither the Bucs nor the Panthers could get themselves to 100 yards passing. The Carolina Panthers’ offense outgained Tampa on the ground 75 yards to 53, however both offenses were stuck in the Raymond James Stadium mud— 130 and 142 yards, respectively. The team stats were relatively even across the stat sheet. A one minute difference in time of possession, just one more first down for Tampa Bay, and even splits on punts and penalties.
Two halftime stats of note for the Bucs— Mike Evans had himself a productive half of play with 69 yards on four catches and Tampa Bay finished 4/9 on third downs (Carolina was just 1/7).
Third quarter- The game’s second quarter was a punter’s showcase and the third quarter began the same way. Punt. Punt. Punt. Punt.
On a drive that started with a CBS graphic which stated that the second half had featured twelve plays with zero yards, the Panthers worked their way down the field and found the endzone for the first time. 10-7. The Bucs’ response was scripted sensationally. Baker Mayfield to Mike Evans— Touchdown! Tampa Bay immediately recaptured the lead and the attention of their very wet fans in attendance.
Fourth quarter- The Bucs took the lead and the ball into the game’s final quarter of play— A drive Tampa pushed across the goal line for their third score. Chris Godwin, absent from the team’s passing game, in recent weeks, created offense in an unorthodox way. Baker Mayfield put him in motion before taking the snap and then handed the ball to Godwin for a run around the outside of the Panthers’ defense— 19 yard touchdown.
Earlier in the game, it was punts that came in bunches, as the fourth quarter pressed on it was touchdowns. Godwin’s score preceded another Carolina touchdown and the two-point conversion cut Tampa’s lead to three. The 21-18 deficit Bryce Young faced, gave the number one overall a chance at glory. The rookie’s attempt at a fourth quarter comeback ended with an Antoine Winfield Jr. interception. Bucs win.
The Bucs are 5-7 and have kept themselves alive in the NFC South for another week. With the Atlanta Falcons on the schedule next week, the Bucs are in an advantageous position, though they still need to capitalize or it will mean nothing.
**On a side note** Tampa Bay Bucs’ wide receiver Mike Evans had 162 yards receiving today. His explosive outing was enough to put him over 1,000 yards for the season. This year will now mark Mike Evans’ tenth consecutive 1,000-yard season (Extending his own NFL record). He also places himself just one 1,000-yard season away from Jerry Rice’s all-time record. Regardless of the result of this game or the result of this season the Tampa Bay Bucs have been lucky to have a player and man of Evans’ caliber as a part of the organization. His accomplishments on the field have been nothing short of immaculate and there is no level of praise high enough to commend who he has been off of it.