TAMPA — Bucs coach Greg Schiano was in a great mood Monday, less than 24 hours after opening the regular season with a 16-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.
There was plenty for the first-year coach to smile about. The defense sacked Cam Newton three times and intercepted him twice, and tied a club record by allowing only 10 rushing yards.
Rookies like running back Doug Martin, safety Mark Barron and linebacker Lavonte David showed up. Veterans like Gerald McCoy and Ronde Barber showed off.
The game ended with quarterback Josh Freeman kneeling three times to kill the clock.
But that wasn't the only time the Bucs' offense deliberately turtled in the second half.
After a hot start, 12-of-14 for 122 yards and a touchdown in the first half, Freeman went 4-of-10 passing for 16 yards the rest of the way with one first-down attempt.
Squatting on a one-score lead can be risky in the NFL. Schiano said Monday his team won't always take such a conservative approach.
"I don't think it was overly conservative," Schiano said. "I think some of the things that happened in the second half didn't happen in the first half. We didn't get sacked in the first half, we didn't get pressure, we didn't have a holding penalty on a 30-whatever yard reception. Those are the things, when you make those plays, now you've got a great run-pass ratio working and you're feeling good..
"I think it all depends on the game. … Who are we trying to beat? And then you look at all three phases. How do we match up personnel wise? And okay, we don't match up so well here, but we do match up here. Where are our advantages and disadvantages? Then you put together a plan accordingly. I don't think you put together an offensive plan independent of your defensive plan independent of your special teams.
"So, we may throw the ball 60 times next week. I do not have an aversion to it. My thing is, what do we need to do to win?"
Martin, a first-round pick from Boise State, rushed 24 times for 95 yards and caught four passes for 23 yards. That enabled the Bucs to control the clock for 37 minutes, 27 seconds.
But after scoring on three of their first four possessions to start, the Bucs had only a field goal on their last seven tries despite taking the ball away with two interceptions and a blocked punt.
"Yeah, there's some (plays) that you want back, certain plays," Freeman said. "At the same time our primary goal was to protect the football, and we were able to do that, whether on the ground or through the air. … The offensive line stepped up big time. All you've got to do is run the ball, get a first down, and after the two-minute warning you can kneel it and run the clock out. I mean, guys answered the call. Doug broke the tackle, bust up through, split it. There's no better feeling than kneeling the ball and seeing those zeros on the clock."
Schiano allowed that the Bucs might have to open things up a bit, perhaps starting Sunday against the New York Giants.
"Now, we're not always right," Schiano said. "Our plan can be wrong or they have a say in it, too. But that's our idea. This week, that's what I felt it was."