TAMPA — Perhaps the biggest defensive play of the Bucs' 17-14 win at Carolina on Monday night was CB Brent Grimes making a leaping interception in the end zone when the Panthers had first and goal at the 1-yard line in a tie game with 8:45 remaining.
But what stood out to Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was what Grimes did on the previous play to make the interception possible, making a diving tackle on RB Fozzy Whittaker on a 16-yard run to stop him at the 1-yard line as Whittaker dived for the pylon.
"Even more so than the interception was the tackle he made the play before that," Koetter said. "We give Brent a hard time about him not being the greatest tackler in the world, but if he doesn't tackle that guy on the 1-yard line, that next play never happens. We're already down. He shoved that guy, got him down and they called him out at the 1, and next play, Brent gets the interception."
The Bucs' coaching staff voted Tuesday to give the defensive game ball for the week to Grimes — RB Jacquizz Rodgers got it on offense and WR Russell Shepard on special teams. S Bradley McDougald said in watching game tape Tuesday, the effort Grimes put in getting Whitaker at the 1 was obvious.
"The hustle was phenomenal," McDougald said. "That's just Brent for you. … (The INT) was huge. There's no other words you can say. Prime-time play. The only reason he got that was that he stopped the ballcarrier the (play) before."
Grimes, who got the Bucs' first interception this season by a defensive back, saw Carolina backup QB Derek Anderson trying to hit TE Greg Olsen, who had a huge game with 181 yards on nine catches, but Grimes got to the ball first, stepping up for the second play in a row with the game on the line.
"I just made a play and tackled him before he got in the end zone. That's the goal," he said of his initial stop. "I had an opportunity to make a play on the ball in the end zone and I did that."
SMART CHECK: Lost in the chaos of the Bucs' final drive to set up Roberto Aguayo's winning kick Monday was the fact the NFL's independent concussion spotter had Bucs C Joe Hawley come out of the game, suspecting a potential concussion to be evaluated.
The Bucs had Rodgers run to the right side for a 3-yard gain, and Hawley, in blocking the run, was down on the field with his head down for a brief moment at the end of the play.
The NFL's certified athletic trainer on hand to identify potential concussions alerted game officials, and play was stopped and Hawley pulled from the game — Evan Smith, who had replaced him for one drive after a knee injury in the third quarter, returned at center for much of the winning drive, though Hawley was back on the field for the end of the possession.
"That was a concussion protocol thing, because I got up slow from a play," Hawley said after the game. "I guess (that is) the NFL policy. I'm kind of glad they did it. That's the first time I've seen them do that. It means they actually care about us."
THIS AND THAT: WR Jeremy Butler, who was waived by the Bucs on Sunday after being promoted from the practice squad last week, was claimed Tuesday by the Jets. … The Bucs released LB Josh Keyes from the practice squad, giving them three openings for new players on the 10-man unit. … Former Dolphins DE Chris McCain, who had two sacks for Miami in 2014-15, is working out for the Bucs today as a potential roster addition.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.