Bucs' preparation pays off in clutch
Practice didn't make perfect for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday but it came darned close. Trailing the Panthers 21-13 with only 62 seconds remaining and no timeouts, Tampa Bay took possession 80 yards from the end zone with a confidence borne from situational drills implemented by head coach Greg Schiano at One Buc Place.

"Our coaches come up with all types of scenarios and now we see why,'' tackle Demar Dotson said. "Coach Schiano is a genius, because we're ready for anything. When we got in that huddle, it was calm. We all took a deep breath and stuck it down the field.''

It took only 50 seconds for the Bucs to pull within 21-19. After Tiquan Underwood caught Josh Freeman's 18-yard pass, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis was flagged for unnecessary roughness when he struck Underwood in the head with his shoulder.

"It's a tough call,'' Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "I understand that it's about safety. The receiver is going down, Thomas is coming across, how are we supposed to make plays on that? Thomas didn't hit him helmet to helmet. The referee made a judgment call and we have to live with it.''

Freeman's 17-yard completion to Vincent Jackson on third-and-4 moved the ball to the Carolina 24-yard line and, two plays later, Freeman found Jackson deep down the middle for a touchdown under the shadow of the crossbar, despite tight coverage by rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly. "There was no panic on that drive,'' left guard Jeremy Zuttah said. "We just looked at each other and said, 'Let's go.' ''

After a review, Jackson's team-leading seventh scoring catch of the year was upheld, but the Bucs still needed a two-point conversion to force overtime. The Panthers called a timeout and, once again, Freeman and Jackson hooked up as Carolina's defense bit on play action.

Lined up in the shotgun, Freeman faked a handoff to Martin and hit Jackson on a slant near the back of the end zone. The timeout gave Tampa Bay an opportunity to revise the original play call. "It gave us a chance to get Vincent that matchup and he did an awesome job of beating the defender and making the catch,'' Freeman said.

Between the time the Bucs took a 10-0 lead and engineered the game-tying drive, Tampa Bay struggled through eight possessions that ended with five punts and three turnovers. "Nobody harbors on the bad stuff around here, we have complete confidence,'' veteran safety Ronde Barber said. "This was a special win, in spite of our flaws.''

For left tackle Donald Penn, the game-tying drive was a testament to the power of positive thinking. "That showed we have confidence in each other,'' Penn said. "When we gathered in the huddle for that drive, it was very quiet, very calm. The only guy talking was Josh Freeman.'' Loud and clear.

About the writer
Ira Kaufman has long been both a great writer for The Tampa Tribune and friend to the Bucs UK and BUCPOWER.COM. He writes on all sports for the paper but during the NFL season offers his stories on not just the Buccaneers, but also the NFL in general.