Chris Godwin was one of five Tampa Bay Buccaneers who were awarded Game Balls by Head Coach Bruce Arians following Thursday night's win over the Carolina Panthers. If you assumed that honor was in recognition of Godwin's game-high eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown you wouldn't be wrong, you just wouldn't be completely right.
"Obviously, you saw his stats, but he blocked as good as any wide receiver I've ever seen in a game, blocking linebackers, defensive ends, safeties," said Arians. "He was a huge part of our running game."
And the running game was a huge part of the Buccaneers' 20-14 victory, which wasn't fully secure until a fourth-down stop of Christian McCaffrey by Vernon Hargreaves at the two-yard line with 82 seconds left in regulation. Tampa Bay's defense was superb throughout the game and up through that final stop, preventing the Panthers from reaching the end zone even once, but it had help. The Buccaneers had nearly an eight-minute edge in time of possession, in part because the running game was reliable for most of the night.
View photos of Tampa Bay's Week 2 matchup against Carolina.
During his day-after-game press conference on Friday, Arians stated in no uncertain terms that the Buccaneers are a running team. That's a big departure from a year ago, when Tampa Bay had the league's most productive passing attack (in terms of yards) but ranked 29th in the ground game. Five days after opening the season with a 121-yard rushing effort against San Francisco, the Bucs got another 100 yards on 31 carries while grinding out a win over the Panthers.
If the Buccaneers are going to succeed in being a running team – and so far they have 57 runs and 61 passes through two games – they will need a full-team effort, which means among other things that the receivers have to do their part in the blocking schemes. Godwin clearly did that on Thursday and that's why he as to clear out a little space on his mantle at home for a brand new Game Ball.
Second-year man Ronald Jones had the hot hand in the Bucs' season-opener, rushing for 75 yards on 13 carries, but Arians and the Buccaneers rode Peyton Barber's strong shoulders against the Panthers. Barber picked up 82 yards on 23 carries and gave the Bucs their eventual winning points with a 16-yard touchdown burst up the middle in the third quarter. Arians gave Barber a Game Ball, too.
"He had the hot hand, we stuck with him," said Arians. "RoJo stung his toe on that really good run he had, but it was Peyton's night."
Hargreaves also got a game ball for his game-saving play that went along with a career-high and team-leading 12 tackles. Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett obviously received one as well after he recorded all three of the Bucs' sacks of Cam Newton and generally made life miserable for a variety of different Carolina edge blockers. And inside linebacker Kevin Minter won not one but two Game Balls, one for his work on defense after rookie Devin White went down just six plays in, which included eight tackles and a quarterback hit, and one for maintaining his important role on special teams even after finding himself very busy on defense.