Long awaited fast start gets Bucs going
All you need to know about the manner in which the Bucs have started games this season is that they did not have an opening-drive touchdown prior to Sunday’s.
The best they managed was a field goal on their first possession against the Steelers in September – a drive that started the Pittsburgh 31 on an Aqib Talib interception.
Otherwise, the Bucs have been painfully slow in starting games this season – until Sunday.
Tampa Bay took possession at the Carolina 47 when DT Gerald McCoy forced a fumble that the Bucs recovered. From there, the Bucs methodically marched to the end zone in four plays, capping the drive with an 8-yard Josh Freeman-to-Arrelious Benn touchdown pass, Benn’s second in as many games.
That gave the Bucs an early lead and, what’s more, enabled them to approach the game differently. Because the Bucs have faced so many early deficits, even in wins, it has made play calling and sticking to game plans difficult.
“For the coaches to be able to run the plays that they want makes a big difference,” said James Lee, who started at right tackle. “It’s not, ‘Throw the ball, throw the ball, hurry up and throw the ball.’ We can relax and go through what our plan was coming into the game.”
Clearly, that plan was the pound the ball on the ground. With RB LeGarrette Blount battering the defense, offensive coordinator Greg Olson was able to reach deeper into his substantial bag of tricks (the Wildcat formation, bootleg throws, etc).
But, more than anything, that rare early touchdown set a tone that would carry through the rest of the day.
“When you can score on the opening drive of either half,” Olson said, “to me, it’s a real psychological blow to the opposition.”