Tampa Bay uses defense to upset Panthers

Ken Cross

December 02, 2018 at 6:08 pm.


Nov 18, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) drops back to pass during the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 18, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) drops back to pass during the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense took centerstage in Sunday’s 24-17 win over the Carolina Panthers. The unit had been much maligned all season with lots of rookies and new players on that side of the football.

It had crept into 27th place in the NFL overall which is an achievement when you consider that it was at the bottom or near the bottom over the first half of the season.

Tampa Bay surrendered 444 total yards on Sunday, but hurried Panthers quarterback Cam Newton into four interceptions, while sacking him four times.

At the hub of those interceptions was third-year safety Andrew Adams, who picked off three of the four. The third-year man out of UConn has appeared in eight games and has been a ball-hawk in the secondary and had even been cut and then brought back within a season where the Buccaneers have had defensive personnel on call due to a string of injuries.

“Everyone that we checked with, when he came here, said that Andrew was a good special team player, good backup safety,” said Bucs coach Dirk Koetter. “But, it just jumped out. His personality, if you’ve talked to him, you’d know his personality jumps out at you. This guy likes ball; he’s bright-eyed, and he likes to work.”

Adams had only one interception coming into the game and with the Hat-trick, he joined Ronde Barber who had three picks in a single game in 2001 and 2005 and Aquib Talib, the last Buccaneer to go for the triple which was in 2009.

“Next guy up mentality, we harp on that and everybody in the room you know can play,” noted an elated Adams. “Coach has confidence in everybody in the room. So when one guy goes down, we’re not really lacking at one position.”

Adams wasted little time making his mark on the football game as he recorded his first interception on the Panthers first possession. It set up a Cairo Santos 36-yard field goal and gave Tampa Bay a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

“I was a middle of the field runner and I saw Cam set up and throw so I turned and made a break on the ball,” he said, “Lavonte David made a good break on the ball and tipped it, so gotta have cat-like reactions and should have scored.”

Adams saved the final two picks for the fourth quarter where he snuffed out any Panthers’ hopes of a momentum swing when he snatched the second interception after Newton hit Curtis Samuel on a 31-yard pass play to the Buccaneers’ 43 with just over 12 minutes remaining.

“They tried a double move and I sat on it,” said Adams. “Thanks to the D-Line, Cam kind of threw it late and it was kind of wobbly. I went up and got it. The third one, I am in the middle of the field. They tried to throw a seam ball down the hash and I stepped in front of it and dived for it and that was all three of them.”

Winston breaks out: Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston played potentially his best game of the season. His numbers were pedestrian from the outside, but from the inside, the decision making and the ability to manage the game and lead his team to the win resonates with the way Newton normally plays.

“If the read wasn’t there, I tried to make a play,” Winston explained. “If I couldn’t make a play I just took a sack or got out of bounds. It was just simple.”

In his last three games, in which the Bucs’ are 2-1, Winston has completed 72.6 percent of his passes with six touchdown passes and only one interception. He is now not forcing the ball into the middle of the defensive secondary while he is choosing when and how to run.

“I thought Jameis really was in control all day, and for the most part, took what they gave him,” said Koetter. “We just couldn’t get in a very good rhythm there in the second half. In the first half. We moved it, I thought, really well.”

Javien Elliott, another cornerback who was listed third on the depth chart with Brett Grimes and M.J. Stewart out with injuries, procured Tampa Bay’s second interception late in the second half and Winston took that and used his time efficiently.

The fourth-year former Florida State Seminole hit wide receiver Chris Godwin on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining in the first half to give Tampa Bay a 17-7 advantage at the break.

Winston was upset that he didn’t get a pass interference penalty on Carolina safety Eric Reid in the end zone on the play before, so he went back to Godwin on the play for the score.

“I decided in my mind, ‘I’m going to throw Chris a touchdown pass,’” commented Winston. “We should have gotten it on the first play, but the offensive line blocked good, I stepped up, scrambled to the right. Chris was wide open; I put it on him. Touchdown.”

Godwin finished with six catches for 101 yards on the day, while Winston broke the Buccaneers career touchdown pass record with his 81st in his four years, passing Josh Freeman.

“The play had already broken down and Jameis, he always does a great job of scrambling and setting the play and giving the receivers an opportunity to work with him,” said Godwin. “It was no different on that play. Was just trying to find open space and he always has an eye down the field. He gave me the opportunity and I went up and got it.”

  Get the postgame video report here