I don't know if the victory Sunday means the Bucs will now make the playoffs. But I do know that a loss would've been a serious gut-punch to their postseason chances.
It's kind of like looking at the map on election night. Commentators try to find paths to the White House, such as a candidate has to win Ohio and Florida or Virginia and Pennsylvania. Well, when you look at the Bucs' schedule, it was hard to find a path to the postseason that included a loss to the now 2-8 Panthers.
You figure the Bucs should be favored to beat the Eagles and Rams at home. That's eight wins. They'll be underdogs at Denver.
That leaves three games: home and away against Atlanta and at New Orleans. They need one of those, maybe two. But it's better than having to win three, which would have been the case had they lost to the Panthers.
Just as with any coach, you can debate whether Greg Schiano makes the right decisions on whether to go for first downs or kick field goals. You can question a play call now and then. You can question personnel decisions.
But is there any question that the Bucs are thoroughly well-prepared physically and mentally every game? Is there any question that they have a game plan that is well thought out and practiced? Is there any question that the team believes it can succeed, no matter the circumstances?
Hey, even mediocre head coaches have good seasons (see: Morris, Raheem, 2010), and Schiano has been an NFL coach for all of 10 real games, but this guy seems to know what he's doing. No question about it.
Schiano hates lack-of-discipline penalties, but let's hope he gave a game ball (or at least a pat on the back) to Bucs guard Ted Larsen for Larsen's personal foul penalty late in the first quarter.
After Bucs QB Josh Freeman was intercepted, Carolina defensive tackle Dwan Edwards had Freeman pinned down and was, as they say, giving him the business. Larsen rushed to Freeman's aid and blasted Edwards. Was it a penalty? Absolutely. Was Larsen wrong? Not even a little bit.
Three things that popped into my head
1. My team MVP might be Andrew Economos, who not only long snaps but picks the coin flips for the Bucs. Man, the guy is money. Right before overtime, he picked "tails.'' Who in the world picks tails? Counting the opening coin toss and this overtime, the Bucs have won 10 of 11 coin flips this year.
2. I keep waiting for rookie running back Doug Martin to start wearing down. Five carries and 48 yards in overtime hardly suggests he's getting worn out.
3. When you're reeling and lose a game like the Panthers lost Sunday, head coaches get fired. Keep an eye on the ESPN ticker today.
Every playoff team pulls out a game it has no business winning. Quarterback Josh Freeman had a lousy game for the first 56 minutes. The Bucs had a touchdown erased by a fumble. They lost the turnover battle, 3-1. I'd say this is the Bucs' game they had no business winning.
Tom Jones can be heard from 6-9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620 and reached at email@example.com.