Far be it from me to cast aspersions on Tampa Bay’s first regular season win since last October. This thing isn’t going to get turned around overnight, and a win in Greg Schiano’s pro debut is a pretty important step in that process. There are plenty of guys on this team who were probably trying to remember what winning felt like, and getting a W — even one as ugly as this one — can only be a good thing.
But midway through the first quarter it looked like we were going to lay 30 points on these guys. Freeman was sharp, we were moving the ball, and the defense had Cam Newton completely stymied. And then the offense just seemed to go to sleep. Maybe they were playing it safe because of the weather, but the Freeman of those first few drives just vanished. Which meant the defense, forced back onto the field far too often, had a few lapses that wouldn’t have been a big deal had the offense put some more points on the board when they had the chance. So a game that looked to be a rout in the making instead became a nail biter somewhat unnecessarily. But Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson made some clutch plays towards the end, getting first downs that helped put the game away. And Martin looked really good, proving he can take the pounding of being the #1 guy in the NFL.
I’ve got to give credit to the defensive line too. They were disruptive all game long, and if they sometimes let Newton get away, well, it’s Newton, he’s going to do that. The back seven sometimes seemed to forget there was a tight end on the field, but for the most part, when we needed a play, the defense made one, getting two big turnovers down the stretch when Carolina had some momentum. Granted, the Panthers are not a good team, but this can only serve to raise the defense’s confidence.
And they’re going to need it, because the Giants aren’t going to be as forgiving next week. They’re smarting from losing to the Cowboys on opening night, so I imagine they’re going to be sitting back waiting for Tampa Bay to come to town so they can take out some frustration. That’s why this win today was so important. Facing the possibility of 0-2 would have been a disaster. Now, we won’t be any worse than 1-1. Of course, we were 4-2 last year before the roof caved in. But it’s a new year, and a new coach. I just hope the offense can whip itself into shape soon. We can’t count on holding teams to ten yards rushing every week.