Ira Kaufman’s 10 Takeaways From Bucs-Panthers

January 1st, 2023

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That conga line inside the Buc locker room says it all.

As Tampa Bay players and coaches filed in after Sunday’s dramatic victory, they were greeted by the Glazer clan. Down the row they went, exchanging high fives, low fives and fist bumps with Bryan, Joel, Avi and Darcie.

There were smiles all around following a massively consequential 30-24 win against the pesky Panthers. Instead of hoping Carolina loses next week at New Orleans, the Bucs can gather their collective breath, knowing they are locked into the NFC’s No. 4 playoff position as division champions.

It didn’t come easy. In fact, there were times when it looked like it wouldn’t come at all as Tampa Bay fell behind 14-0 in the first half and then 21-10 early in the fourth quarter.

That’s when Mike Evans and Tom Brady staged an entertaining air show during a 20-point blitz that sewed up the NFC South.

On an afternoon when Bruce Arians entered the Ring of Honor, Brady threw for 432 yards and three TDs, adding a 1-yard scoring run of his own. Evans, who averaged only 49 yards in his previous seven games, ravaged Carolina’s secondary for 207 yards, highlighted by three long TD catches.

Rookie punter Jake Camarda got into the act with a terrific athletic play in the final minute as the Bucs evened their record at 8-8 in this most odd of seasons.

Tampa Bay won the turnover battle and Carolina’s running game never materialized. The Bucs didn’t think Sam Darnold could beat them, but he almost did, throwing for 341 yards and three scores.

In the end, the Bucs made more plays in crunch time, so fans are guaranteed to see Brady and company at least one more time at Raymond James Stadium.

For Todd Bowles, his biggest decision this week is figuring out who to rest in Week 18. That’s a far cry from needing a win in Atlanta and rooting for the 7-9 Saints.

Here’s how the Bucs rallied for a 30-24 triumph that avoided Brady’s first losing season as a pro.

* Arians was brief and gracious during his halftime ceremony and the Bucs honored him with a return of the long ball. Evans had only three catches all season of at least 40 yards before latching on to TD grabs of 63 and 57 yards. He added a 30-yard score midway through the fourth quarter that put the Bucs ahead for good.

* As Brady readily acknowledged, you don’t average almost 9 yards per pass attempt without stout protection. “Awesome, awesome,” he said. “Our guys held up great in there and we kept slugging it out. Thank you, guys.”

* Evans had such a majestic day that it’s easy to overlook the contributions of Chris Godwin, who caught all 9 passes Brady sent his way for 120 yards. Godwin needs only two catches next week to reach 100 for the first time and only 32 yards to join Evans with 1,000 yards. Not too shabby for a gritty player who tore knee ligaments late last season.

* In a wild fourth quarter, Anthony Nelson turned in a huge play with Carolina trailing 24-21. On first down from the Panthers 13, Nelson’s strip-sack of Darnold was recovered by Vita Vea. Two plays later, Brady dove in from a yard out to open up a two-score advantage with 1:58 remaining. In the past four games, Nelson has 19 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. In other words, he’s a keeper.

* Camarda might have saved the day by handling an errant snap by Zach Triner, scampering down the left sideline to avoid pressure and nailing a 41-yard punt to the 3-yard line. The dazzling play forced Carolina to accept a penalty and Camarda’s second punt pinned the Panthers back at their 8-yard line with only 26 seconds left.

Sean Murphy-Bunting

* Sean Murphy-Bunting turned in another strong game with an interception, a forced fumble and two passes defended. “We look at it deeper than football,” he said. “It’s a brotherhood and we rely on each other because this is how we provide for our families.”

* As usual, the Bucs had few points to show for in the opening half, despite rolling up 201 yards. They were fortunate to be within 14-10. For the season, Tampa Bay has scored only 10 TDs in the first two quarters. “When we hopped on them, we can’t let momentum change,” said Panthers DE Brian Burns. “We can’t let it switch that fast and twist that bad.”

* The Bucs checked off all of the key boxes for Bowles — reign in Carolina’s robust ground game, win the turnover battle and own field position. “They came in and had a really good game plan,” said Panthers RB D’Onta Foreman. “I felt they were getting to us on the backside on some of our plays.”

* Brady wants to play next week. I understand — he’s one of the greatest competitors this game has ever known. But if I’m Bowles, I don’t care. Brady sits.

* This could have been Brady’s final home game as a Buccaneer, but it’s not. The Cowboys or the Eagles are coming to Tampa in two weeks and Brady, 35-12 in the postseason, will be waiting. That’s a queasy feeling for any defense.

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Ira drives a 2020 Ford Escape (cherry red).

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

  1. geno711 Says:

    Glad you mentioned SMB in this one. It is a passing league and hard to consistently make plays as a cornerback, but SMB did today.

  2. BA’s Red Pen Says:

    Throw the ball to Mike Evans. It’s not that hard to figure out Byrun-A-Draw-Play Leftwich.

  3. Arn platz Says:

    Completely agree with Ira, hope we get an eagle’s team with Minshew at QB. They look beatable. Cowboys look scary good right now

  4. Greg Says:

    Well depicted Ira and so many plays that were wow worthy. Camarda’s escape from sure doom was a masterpiece! His heady play demonstrated his elite traits and I am sure his teammates will look at him defiantly now. He had already demonstrated his punting ability during the season, but now his athleticism puts him in rare air. Well done!

  5. Pryda sec 147 Says:

    The crowd was electric today it’s going to be even more intense for the playoffs

  6. Tap-Out Says:

    Great Job …goes out to the Coaching Staff!

  7. Ben the GA Buc Says:

    Play Brady next week for up to one quarter, with the sole purpose of keeping the connection with Evans alive. Then, sit both of them.

  8. Vlad The Impaler Says:

    I saw old Tom Moore on the sideline congratulating TB12. He doesn’t look a day over 60!

  9. cmurda Says:

    Brady isn’t necessarily guaranteed to avoid his first losing season as a pro technically Ira but it doesn’t take away from your salient points.

  10. david Says:

    Brady sits? Absolutely not. He needs to play some. They’re just finding a little bit a stride. They need to at least play a half. They have to keep that going. They really need some lineman and defenders to get healthy but keeping the momentum going is just as big.

  11. Casual Observer Says:

    Agree with David. Let Brady play. At least a half. Maybe Jensen too.

  12. Sorryjackchuckiesback Says:

    DON’T SIT THEM!! Start them for at least a whole quarter if not the half!!! … How many times did we watch Peyton Mannings colts sit players and it mess up their whole rhythm!? The bucs JUST found an offensive rhythm and if they sit them it will have been for nothing! … That would be a good stat to look up! How many teams have made the super bowl that sat their starters the last game??

  13. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    If they want Brady to leave out of here with a winning season they better play everybody. IF the Bucs can jump on the Falnots and get a big lead then sit em. Don’t let us be the biggest black eye on Brady’s career by giving him his 1st losing season

  14. Sorryjackchuckiesback Says:

    This is how Bill Belichick feels about resting starters and I have to agree

    “I think that’s a conversation that you can have, and the fans can have, but it’s not really part of our approach to the game,” Belichick told “I don’t think it’s a good one to have. I don’t really understand it either. You’re going to pick out one guy that is important and say somebody else isn’t? I don’t think that’s a good way to manage your football team.”

  15. Irishmist Says:

    The Bucks have absolutely nothing to play for. In fact it will be an advantage for them if they lose because it may improve their draft position versus another playoff team like Jacksonville. I wouldn’t just not play the first stringers, I would keep the second stringers out as well and play the third stringers including Trask, Vaughn and everyone else at the bottom of the depth chart. What’s important is we go into the playoffs as healthy as possible. We have a lot of first stringers who have been playing with injuries including Brady, Wirfs, Donovan Smith, Lenny and most of our secondary. If we have a chance to give ourselves a bye going into the playoffs I say we take it.

  16. Pelsbuc61 Says:

    This team made the playoffs because of Brady and the lousy division and despite the horrible coaching. Brady can do only so much. Time to air it out in the playoffs and hope the special teams and Leftwich doesn’t screw it up.

  17. Redeemer Says:

    I’m a little torn about what to do next week. I’d hate to see anyone get hurt in a meaningless game. Yet again, this was by far the best the offense as a whole has looked all year. Everyone has a mile of tape on every team at this point. I guess play the healthy starters for a quarter or so. Treat it like the dress rehearsal in preseason. ON TO DALLAS!!!! I’m back to my original prediction. Brady will win a playoff game and have the ball in his beautiful hands, with a chance to go to yet another title game. GO BUCS!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Sorryjackchuckiesback Says:

    All these small injuries these guys have will swell up and be worse if they sit them! They’ll be tighter and not loose enough to play the playoffs! It’ll take them 3 quarters to loosen up properly… Game speed is far different than practice… DON’T SIT THEM! Give them at least a quarter to keep that momentum and keep them loose!

  19. Cobraboy Says:

    Resting players on an 8-8 team is absurd.

  20. CleanHouse Says:

    Let them play, we sucked all year and need momentum.

  21. JimmyfromNY Says:

    You don’t rest players when you’re scoring 18 points a game. Everyone plays and you play to win. This team isn’t good enough to sit anyone. They need reps on both sides of the ball in especially special teams where they’ve been abysmal. They haven’t played a full 60 minutes the entire year. Today was a good start. Maybe next week they do. Football players play football..

  22. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    Cobraboy with true words of wisdom

  23. tbbucs3 Says:

    Brady needs to play the full game…this sorry offense needs reps. A 1 game sample size against the Panthers wont fool me.

  24. SlyPirate Says:

    What do we do with JTS?

    Tons of ability but he’s so lost.

  25. Tucker Says:

    I don’t think you can afford to sit them out if they want to make noise in the playoffs they need to figure out some consistency on offense badly. The numbers look good this game but man was this offense inconsistent still and the running game is just awful hope the rumours of Jensen coming back are true because this oline needs a shot in the arm.

  26. AbucAway Says:

    Todd Bowles will be damned if he do and damned if he don’t.

    If playing helps to keep momentum then they have to play. The positive effects of having momentum cannot be denied. It’s physics. It’s real. It’ll help us and we need all the help we can get. Injuries happen on any Sunday but momentum isnt always on your side.
    Play em

  27. teacherman777 Says:

    I wish we could just forfeit.

  28. Eric b Says:


  29. Carey Says:

    Remember how they looked after their bye earlier this year? They need more live reps.

  30. George Says:

    I understand the injury logic. This team needs momentum though.

    Also sitting can have adverse consequences

    Look at the Packers last year. They had already clinched 1 seed . Sat everyone and lost to Detroit . Had the bye . Lost their momentum and got beat by Niners

    If Bucs get out to a big lead then maybe consider bringing in the third stringers

  31. orlbucfan Says:

    Well, they’ve been called the Cardiac Bucs for a long time. Atlanta won’t be a pushover; they’re professional football players, very competitive with a lot of pride. Play everyone including the third stringers if a huge lead develops. And with the way the injury bug has bit us, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

  32. Nick houllis Says:

    It doesn’t matter who comes to Raymond James, if the line can give Brady time like that, he can pick his poison.
    Problem is red zone. Otton, soften those hands bro!