The Buccaneers picked up a 17-14 primetime win over the Panthers in week five. Tampa Bay is still far from where it needs to be, but the victory changes the outlook on the rest of the season as the bye week approaches.
So, the Buccaneers are 2-3 as they head into the bye week. That’s pretty much where everyone expected that they would be after five weeks, but it just feels different. Their 1-1 start wasn’t a big shock, but the subsequent loss to the Rams was disappointing. The week four loss to the Broncos was expected, which made Monday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers a pivotal one.
Somehow, Tampa Bay heads into its bye week at 2-3 after beating the defending NFC champions on a last-second field goal by the mystery that is Roberto Aguayo. The Bucs didn’t turn the ball over once, while the Panthers turned it over four times. Tampa Bay held possession for almost eight more minutes than Carolina. So, how did it still take a last-second field goal to win?
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Jameis Winston missed some throws. Roberto Aguayo continued to frustrate fans with two misses before connecting on the game-winner. The secondary still struggled despite facing Derek Anderson. Late in the game, Dirk Koetter stayed conservative, even with the 2015 No. 1 overall pick as his quarterback. But, none of it mattered.
Five weeks of the 2016 season are gone, and the Bucs’ outlook has changed. They certainly missed an opportunity to be 3-2 heading into the bye week, but 2-3 sure feels a whole lot better than 1-4. Beating the struggling Panthers gives this team life.
The toughest part of the schedule is now in the past, which is especially promising considering Tampa Bay should get healthier during the bye week. Gerald McCoy, Robert Ayers, Clinton McDonald, Doug Martin and Luke Stocker should all be making their way back soon, which will re-energize the team as it heads into a much more favorable stretch of the schedule.
There was a lot to worry about in Monday night’s game, but the feeling coming out of it has to be a good one. Yes, the Bucs couldn’t get out of their own way at times, but the fact remains that Tampa Bay teams from recent years would not have come away with a win in that situation. How many times in the last few years have late-game miscues cost the Bucs? Too many to count, that’s for sure. To see them finally come out on top in a situation like that, especially on the road, was promising.
Of course, the Bucs could still go on to lose the rest of their games. They could fizzle out after the bye week and finish the season with another disappointing record. But, as they go into the bye week, that’s not the point. The point is, there’s hope. There are a lot of promising things coming from this team, despite the constant frustrations. It’s worth repeating: 2-3 sure feels a whole lot better than 1-4.
The Bucs hit the field again on October 23 when they head out west to take on the San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff is set for 4:05.