The Greg Schiano era in Tampa started Sunday and it was in every way refreshing to welcome in. Josh Freeman was great coming off a terrible 2011 season and the Buccaneers looked like an actual football team for the first time in about two years.
The first drive of the game for Tampa saw Josh Freeman finish it a perfect 7-for-7 with a touchdown to Mike Williams. It would be the only touchdown the Bucs scored all game long, but it was the only one they needed. The touchdown was more than just seven points on the board, it was the arrival of this new era in Bucs football.
Connor Barth took the Bucs the rest of the way in terms of points, hitting three key field goals to lift the Bucs past Cam Newton and the Panthers.
Last year (and get used to the comparisons to last year because it was about as bad as it gets) Cam Newton ran all over the Bucs and made them look like the foolish and clumsy football team they were. This year, Gerald McCoy and company held strong, keeping Newton neutral and forcing him to beat them with his arm.
The Bucs showed that if you force Newton to throw the ball, he’s not really that great just this yet. Everyone from Mark Barron to Amad Black and Ronde Barber were beating up Newton in the passing game with Black coming down with a key interception late.
But where the Bucs looked most improved was their will. Late in the fourth, the Panthers drove the length of the field to set up a first and goal situation trailing by 6. The Bucs put up a great defensive stand and as a result, held the Panthers to just a meaningless field goal.
The biggest stop of the game came when Cam Newton reared back on a third and goal inside the five and began to go on one of his patented Cam runs. But this time, unlike last year, the Bucs stuffed Newton and stopped him cold in his tracks. This set up the meaningless field goal and gave the Bucs the ball back for the final time.
It’s truly a new era and time in Bucs football and that was felt all throughout the stadium. For the first time since week 5 of last year, the Buccaneers won a football game. That’s sadly a massive achievement, but it’s going to take baby steps to make this football team a powerhouse. Those baby steps here had today and will continue with growing pains (likely next week against a vengeful Giants team).
But things are different and that was evident today. The Bucs aren’t the laughing stock anymore — they’re actually a football team with an extreme amount of talent.