The Buccaneers managed to sneak out of Charlotte with a victory to keep their season alive, but it wasn’t always pretty. Here are some of the top and worst performers from the game.
With Doug Martin (hamstring) and Charles Sims (knee, placed on injured reserve) unavailable, there was a lot of pressure on Rodgers to help Tampa Bay establish a run game for the first time this season. Not to mention the fact that the season was pretty much on the line against a Carolina team in the same situation.
Rodgers responded extremely well as an instrumental part of the offense, easily setting new career-highs with 30 carries and 101 rushing yards, 11 more yards than the team had in any single game entering play. The performance also made him just the second player in team history to have at least 30 carries and five receptions in a game, joining James Wilder (four times).
Though Winston was still a little too emotional at times, overthrowing his receivers, he managed to finish the game free of interceptions for the first time since Week 13 of last season. He completed 18-of-30 passes for 219 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown completion to Mike Evans in the third quarter that tied the game, 14-14.
He also had his first game-winning drive of the season, completing four of five passes for 38 yards.
The secondary had trouble matching up with the Panthers receivers for much of the night, but Grimes had arguably the biggest play of the game. With Carolina about to take the lead in the fourth quarter, Grimes intercepted a pass intended for Greg Olsen in the end zone, his first of the season, to keep the game tied.
IN THE MIDDLE:
The offensive line had arguably it’s best performance of the season in terms of creating holes for the Bucs’ backs to run though, but they also, one again, had multiple costly penalties.
Both Ali Marpet and Gosder Cherilus were called for false starts on 3rd & 1 situation, the first of which took the team out of field goal range and the second which was part of back-to-back penalties (one delay of game) on 3rd & 1 five yards away from a score that pushed Tampa Bay 10 yards back. The latter resulted in a missed field goal by Aguayo.
Though Aguayo knocked the game-winning kick in against an expiring clock, that kick would not have had to be depended on had he not missed two kicks earlier in the night. Though he was a second round pick, Tampa Bay is going to continue to have a hard time defending Aguayo if his 50 percent success rate at field goals keeps up.