Bucs born again, finding their comfort zone
They did it for 25. OK, they didn't do it for him. I'm sure Aqib Talib was dabbing his eyes at the Adderall halfway house, but this wasn't about him, not even close. This was about a resounding win, no halfway about it.
Why, Greg Schiano was even caught smiling before it ended. How about that? The score was 38-10. On a day when the Bucs honored Paul Gruber, the Bucs went out and did their jobs, just like Gruber always did, and the Kansas City Chiefs never had a chance. It was a romp.
Bucs left tackle Donald Penn did a little dance as he left the field. The new, reddish-hot receiving tandem, Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, waved to the crowd. Ronde Barber, on just another day for the ol' punt blocker and circus interceptor and TD returner, pumped a fist. E.J. Biggers, who stepped in for Talib, pounded a coach on the shoulder.
Never mind that it came over the one-win Chiefs. The Bucs had one win Sunday morning. Now they have two. Forget Bucs punter Michael Koenen's passer rating – this was a good day. The guy went Garo on us and it was just an afterthought.
It was how the Bucs did it, every which way, that made grown left tackles dance. They never let up on the gas, on offense or defense. "We went in with a purpose and we came out with a purpose," Barber said.
They put up 463 yards of offense. Josh Freeman was let loose with the air show, finally, and Jackson and Williams played to it with three touchdown grabs between them. Williams' 62-yarder was the best of them. He went up over his cover man and took it and ran with it. "We're playmakers and we went and made plays," Williams said.
Kansas City hit this game with the second best rushing attack in football and the NFL's leading rusher in Jamaal Charles. Last week against the Ravens, Kansas City had 214 yards rushing and Charles made 140 of those. The Bucs allowed 80 yards rushing. Charles had 40. This rush defense seems the realest deal the Bucs have right now.
A Bucs secondary that had been decimated, part of dead last in the NFL in pass defense, rallied Sunday. Who needed Talib? There were a lot of hands on a lot of balls. There was Mark Barron's first pro interception. And there was Barber, again.
Sunday, he tied Derrick Brooks for most starts as a Buccaneer. He began with a partial punt block. Later, after the ball bonked off Biggers and Chief Dexter McCluster (good Biggers coverage), the 37-year-old Barber made the pick at his shoe tops, as the ball was about to hit the ground – nothing to it. "After that, it was a pretty easy 78-yard interception return," Barber said.
For his next trick, he will return two picks and get a safety at age 50. The Bucs looked born again after the bye, and Schiano and his staff deserve credit. They made adjustments. They're finding a comfort zones and so are some of their players.
They unleashed Freeman and he went for Jackson and Williams. Let's not get all Duper and Clayton over them just yet, but it was good stuff. "We've got the talent, we've got the pieces, we just have to go out and play," Freeman said.
The Bucs found open spaces for rookie Doug Martin and he responded with 131 yards of offense. Even LeGarrette Blount got in on the fun with a late score. And they never let up on defense. I don't care if Kansas City's quarterback was Brady Quinn, who hadn't made an NFL start since 2009. The Chiefs didn't score an offensive touchdown and the Bucs defense was the big reason why. They kept the hammer down after Barber's touchdown made it 21-3.
"We just put together four quarters of football on both sides of the ball," Gerald McCoy said.
It was as simple as that, as simple as that smile from the head coach with time left on the clock. "We work so hard and I'm always, 'on to the next thing and the next thing,' I want to make sure when we do something like this, we do enjoy it a little bit," Schiano said. "The nice thing about a one o'clock game is that you actually have a couple of hours to enjoy it. Then we get back on and get ready for New Orleans."
As he spoke, he glanced at his watch.
|About the writer|
Martin Fennelly has been The Tampa Tribune's leading sports columnist for many years and is always on hand with a topical and witty opinion on any Florida sporting event. He was named the Bucs UK's Writer of the Year four consecutive years from 2001 to 2004.