Ira Kaufman’s 10 Takeaways From Bucs-Panthers

December 26th, 2021

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They were only 10 years old the last time the Bucs raised a division banner.

On Sunday, Jordan Whitehead and Ke’Shawn Vaughn looked like grown men on a mission, leading the way for a 32-6 romp over the punchless Panthers that punched Tampa Bay’s ticket to the postseason.

Yes, it was as easy as the final score indicated. In sharp contrast to last week, when only the defense showed up against New Orleans, all three phases were on their marks as the Bucs improved to 11-4.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn

Victories against the Jets and Panthers would set a new franchise single-season record for wins in the regular season.

Carolina obliged with a drab effort, alternating quarterbacks as if either Cam Newton or Sam Darnold had a chance against Todd Bowles’ marauders. The Bucs registered seven sacks while Tampa Bay blockers hung a No Trespassing sign around Tom Brady.

There was nothing fake about Antonio Brown on Sunday as he announced his presence with a dominant first half. Byron Leftwich recovered from last week’s debacle to call a balanced game and even Cyril Grayson got into the act with a huge block and a huge reception.

The Bucs, now 5-3 on the road, had no trouble covering the double-digit spread. Brady wasn’t special, but he didn’t have to be because everyone around him did his job.

Carolina is 2-10 after a 3-0 start and owner David Tepper is not a happy man. Perhaps the Panthers will alternate three quarterbacks when they travel to Tampa in two weeks to close out their fourth consecutive losing season.

Here’s how the Bucs captured a division flag for the first time since Joey Galloway was catching bombs from Jeff Garcia:

Jordan Whitehead

* Whitehead was the best player on the field, whether he was picking off a pass or knifing in for a dynamic tackle. He’s always been a stout run defender and his ball skills are steadily improving.

* Brown finished with 10 catches and Brady’s No. 1 protocol was getting him involved. He was targeted 15 times, which was 11 more than any other Buccaneer, and Brown looked like a tiger sprung from a cage. He just might be the best route runner this side of Cooper Kupp.

* The pass rush was overwhelming — led by William Gholston of all people. Gholston finished with 2 1-2 sacks and 3 hits, rushing off the edge and looping inside with equal effectiveness.

* While Darnold and Newton took turns dodging incoming traffic, Brady’s offensive line offered maximum protection. Haason Reddick was credited with Carolina’s only hit and Brian Burns was invisible as Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith pitched a virtual no-hitter.

* Tampa Bay threw 31 passes and attempted 31 runs. You can’t ask for better balance and the 159 rushing yards helped the Bucs control tempo. Without Newton’s 33-yard scamper, the Panthers would have averaged 2.8 yards per carry. Say it again — nobody runs on the Bucs.

* Vaughn capitalized on additional playing time, breaking two tackles en route to his 55-yard dash that opened Tampa Bay’s scoring. Bruce Arians likes him and Vaughn should have an opportunity to move up on the depth chart in 2022.

* Ryan Succop needed a game like this for his confidence. He converted all four of his FG tries and both extra-point attempts, striking the ball with authority. Former Panther Kenjon Barner gave the return game a jolt by bringing a punt back 20 yards.

* Every Buc who suited up got in the game and the only major injury concern is Shaq Barrett. All eyes on the upcoming MRI on Barrett’s knee.

* Lots of garbage yards (82) by the Panthers on that final, meaningless drive. After their failed opening drive, the Bucs scored on each of their next six full possessions. That’s called sense of urgency, folks.

* The last time the Bucs took the division title, it proved to be a false flag as the wild-card Giants came to town and won 24-14 en route to a Super Bowl championship. Garcia had a nice NFL career, but he’s no Tom Brady. That Buc team averaged less than 21 points. This club has been held under 24 points only three times in 15 games.

No comparison.

Yes, that warranty includes USED vehicles!
Ira drives a 2020 Ford Escape (cherry red).

24 Responses to “Ira Kaufman’s 10 Takeaways From Bucs-Panthers”

  1. Bird Says:

    Agree. Whitehead was everywhere. His confidence at all time high and hope he has more big plays to make going forward

    Glad bucs not throwing 50 times a game even with brady. We need that arm live and ready to go for playoffs

    Leftwich did a great job today. Some new schemes were nice to see

    Kudos to grayson and barner who is not afraid of contact
    Big kicking day for succop. Good to see

    Glad we have jets and carolina again to get guys healthy for playoffs and continue to work on new plays. Get some swag

  2. Cobraboy Says:

    It’s been quite a while since we’ve witnessed an entire game taken over by a Buc DB. John Lynch maybe?

  3. Bucdan Says:

    Great point on Succup. This game gave the fans confidence as well! I would like to see a 50-yd FG, but if we never have to kick them….

    Will Gholston is a great success story over a legit career in the NFL! He’s a great “glue” guy for our team. His stat of no missed games since 2017 speaks to his consistency as a player for the Bucs.

    The third down defense showed up today! Still a few overzealous players leading to wide-open WRs, but the defense only bent and never broke. The Panthers remained TD-less! Hats off to the defense and Coach Bowels for two straight games of no TDs given up.

    Bucs should be climbing back into the saddle with a game vs the Jets and another vs the anemic Panthers to close out the season.

    Let’s go Bucs!

  4. Miller5252 Says:

    2 biggest things I’m taking away was the tackling on the defense has gone to another level, they’re finally stopping people with one person making the tackle.

    The other is the penalties. Whitehead’s penalty was really it for ball plays. It’s too bad Carolina had to try and make it looked like they did something against the Bucs that last drive. I was concerned we could lose someone but the D wanted their touchdown free game. Just stupid Tampa actually had to have starters out there while the panthers were trying to do something meaningless.

  5. Bucdan Says:

    Also, shout out to Licht and the off-the-street punter he started today. Punts inside the 20 and the kickoffs were deep. And Barner at PR! Making moves to get upfield and fall forward. Good start and he should keep the job.

    Every player matters!

  6. Bird Says:

    That run by vaughn was special too

    Cut in To wait for blocker and then back out again
    Good for you young MAN!

  7. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Ah loves me some “Mr. Irrelevant” as the special teams MVP or at least him getting some kind of award. Y’all know him, the guy with the “locks”! (Yeah, I know his name.)

  8. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Looks like we have a punt returner now. Just in time.

  9. NPRbuc Says:

    When people do their jobs good things happen! This is a team that can make you believe in the Bucs. My only criticism is that Stuard tied his hair back. It made him much harder to follow on the field. Whenever You would loose him on ST plays all you had to do watch the pile unfold. Wherever the ball is you will find “ Hairball”! After the flat performance last week it was a pleasure to watch our D flying around and everyone smiling after the play. The attitude was 180 from last week and is the attitude that can carry this team through the playoffs. GO BUCS

  10. Winny Testaverde Says:

    Looks like Jenna Lame made a run at AB in the post game press conference. Maybe she needs to head back to the Bulls Beat or Busch Gardens for stories about lovable animals.

  11. Leighroy Says:

    Really enjoyed seeing a win in person today! Felt just like the Himes side of RayJay on the Bucs side today, getting burnt under sunny 74 degree skies in January. Welcome to tamp—errr Charlotte!

    A lot of “Bucs fans” at the game today just there to obsess over Brady. Every time he got up from the bench or barely glanced towards the stands you would have thought he was the 5th Beatle or something. Take your two-colored-halves of a jersey and your goat masks and fly back to Boston. This bandwagon doesn’t need jock-sniffing front runners.

  12. crazybucs_CL Says:

    IK too.

  13. D-Rome Says:

    Looks like Jenna Lame made a run at AB in the post game press conference.

    That was her? I just saw that on NBC. I don’t follow her on Twitter so I had no idea she is a Branch Covidian.

  14. Show Me the TDs Says:

    Checking out the post game interviews over at Buccaneers com. Cyril Grayson looks like he could be Mike Tomlinson’s son.

  15. Jerry Strickland Says:

    I am proud of AB in the post game interview where he would not allow any drama to continue. AB you had a hell of a game and I am proud to see you back making great plays. You are a good man that have made some mistakes in life, but I look up to the man that you are becoming. The heck with all the ones that try to keep bringing up the past. Keep your eye on the future and your eye on the ball and you will show everyone what a great person and Buccaneer you really are. GOOOO BUUUCS AND GOOOO AB!!!

  16. Doctor Stroud Says:

    Congratulations, Bucs! The last game against the Saints might be analogous to the Pittsburgh game in the first Superbowl year: a bad home loss but something that served to re-focus the team. I hope that the result will be the same.

  17. cmurda Says:

    That was a great game today. By the way, how in the world did we lose to this WFT team. Taylor looks terrible against everyone else. Anyway, whatever the seed.

  18. stpetebucsfan Says:

    I was glad to see Leveon Bell get a few carries just to get his feet wet.

    He is one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL. What is our weakness?
    Hands of stone ROJO and poor choking Vaughn. Bell is money as another target for Brady. The sooner those two get in synch the better.

  19. GoBucs Says:

    Lots of shade in this article. DIVISION CHAMPS!!!! GO BUCS

  20. Darin Says:

    Balance. What a concept Leftwich

  21. Bucsfanman Says:

    Not just “balance” but creativity was also on display. This was a game, FINALLY, where all three phases came together.
    Folks this team, even without its top players, is a contender. I know many of us still suffer from the memories of Bucs’ past but, this team is legit.

  22. orlbucfan Says:

    Kudos and more to both William Gholston and Jordan Whitehead as well as AB. Gholston is a member of the trio of stout, classy Bucs who recall the days of crummy HCs, GM firings, and just plain mismanagement and double loss seasons. The other two are ME13 and LVD. I’m sitting here with my 2005 NFC South Champions shirt on as I type. I’m one of the PTSD fan krewe cos of all the decades of losing and setting records with it. Now, I’m puffing out my chest in pride. GO MIGHTY BUCS!!!

  23. Rob In Land O Lakes Says:

    ST. Pete Buc Fan – I thought Rojo and Vaughn looked pretty good. Look, there’s a reason Bell was on the street in December. I would love for him to be the Bell of 5 years ago, but I think he’s likely better served as an insurance policy. Let’s ride Rojo and Vaughn hard the nest two weeks (pass catching deficiencies noted) and wait for playoff Lenny to get better.

  24. Eddie Marz Says:

    Glad to see Bell. He did nothing. They don’t need him at all, what a waste. Jones and Vaughn can carry the load. Bell should go fight Jose Canseco or something.