Pictures from the Buccaneers' Week 5 match-up with the Panthers.
Ultimately, Roberto Aguayo made the one the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to have.
Tampa Bay's rookie kicker shook off a rough night that included two misses to drill a 38-yard field goal as time expired, sending the visiting Buccaneers to a 17-14 win over the Carolina Panthers Monday at Bank of America Stadium. Tampa Bay's first Monday Night Football road victory since the 2003 season opener in Philadelphia improved the Bucs to 2-3 on the season and sent the three-time defending division champs to 1-4. Tampa Bay remained two games behind the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons but are now 2-0 in division play, with both wins on the road following a Week One victory in Atlanta.
Aguayo, who had missed from 46 yards out when the Bucs had a chance to take the lead on their previous drive, said he was confident as he warmed up while the Bucs were putting together the 11-play, game-winning drive. He also had several teammates approach him on the sideline with words of encouragement.
"Hitting the ball into the net, I was hitting it well," said Aguayo. "That one that went left, I committed to it, I hit it well, it just squeaked off to the left. With those, you kind of walk off and say, 'Dang, I hit it well.' But at the end of the day you can't dwell on that. You've got to stay in the present. I knew another opportunity was coming. That's want complementary football is, Jameis bringing us back and getting me into field goal range. At the end of the day I wanted it again. It was not the game I wanted, but at the end of the day you made the one that counted and that's all that mattered."
The Buccaneers won the game with a formula familiar to their best seasons, running the ball well and creating turnovers on defense. Despite playing without its top two running backs, Doug Martin and Charles Sims, the Bucs came out determined to establish the run and actually set the tempo for most of the first half behind Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers carried 10 times on a game-opening field-goal drive as part of an impressive 30-carry, 101-yard night. He also caught five passes for 28 yards, the last one including a sharp cut that turned a short pass into a third-down-converting gain on the game's final drive.
Head Coach Dirk Koetter awarded Rodgers, who set a career high with those 30 totes, with the game ball in the postgame locker room.
"Towards the end of the game I told the offensive line, 'We've got to get him 100 yards,'" said quarterback Jameis Winston. "The way that he came in and made that quick transition, the way that he ran that football was very impressive, but not shocking because he's a great runner. Kudos to him and let's just enjoy this victory."
After securing just two takeaways over the first four weeks of the season, the Buccaneers nabbed four of them on Monday night, including interceptions by linebacker Daryl Smith and cornerback Brent Grimes. Grimes' interception came late in the fourth quarter as he leaped in front of TE Greg Olsen in the Bucs' end zone to prevent a potential go-ahead score. The Buccaneers only scored three points off those takeaways but they limited the Panthers' offense to 14 points despite giving up 414 total yards.
"I'm just happy Roberto got that chance to kick a field goal at the end of the game," said Winston. "The defense played an amazing game, the special teams did awesome and we didn't turn the football over."
Indeed, Winston completed 18 of 30 passes for 219 yards, including a critical third-quarter touchdown toss to WR Mike Evans after Carolina had taken the lead, 14-6. Winston was not intercepted, nor did the Buccaneers lose a fumble. Evans caught six passes for 89 yards to lead the Bucs' passing attack. Winston was often sharp on third downs, helping the Bucs convert six of 15 attempts while Carolina's offense was good on just one of eight tries. A successful two-point conversion on a pass from Winston to WR Adam Humphries tied the game.
With most of their usual starting defensive line out due to injury, the Buccaneers were not able to put much pressure on QB Derek Anderson, who was starting in place of the injured Cam Newton. Anderson ended up with 278 yards on 18 completions, looking repeatedly to prolific tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen had a huge night, catching nine passes for 181 yards.
The Buccaneers actually had a plus-two turnover ratio at halftime. However, an ill-timed roughing-the-punter penalty in the third quarter effectively served as a turnover and was followed by a Panther touchdown just two plays later. Running back Cameron Artis-Payne, starting in place of the injured Jonathan Stewart, ran that one in from 12 yards out after a big Olsen catch, the second of two touchdowns for Artis-Payne.
The Buccaneers kept Carolina off the scoreboard in the first half, taking a 6-0 lead into the intermission on two Roberto Aguayo field goals. The last time Tampa Bay pitched a first-half shutout was November 23, 2014, in a game at Chicago. This one was preserved when Panthers K Graham Gano missed a 43-yard field goal try with seconds left in the half, balancing a miss earlier in the quarter by the Bucs' Roberto Aguayo.
Tampa Bay took the game's opening possession 58 yards on 15 plays to set up Aguayo's 35-yard field goal. The visitors were clearly determined to establish the ground game, giving it 11 times to Rodgers on 10 handoffs and one shovel pass. Two of those Rodgers carries converted third downs of three and four yards, and Winston turned over another with a 17-yard strike to WR Vincent Jackson.
The Bucs' defense started with a three-and-out and the offense drove back into Carolina territory thanks to runs of 11 and 13 yards by Rodgers. However, a pair of penalties and a sack of Winston by Kyle Love and Robert McClain forced the Bucs to punt from midfield to start the second quarter. Two Greg Olsen catches helped the Panthers take the ensuing drive just over the midfield stripe but the Panthers were forced to punt from there.
The Bucs' next drive went three-and-out but the visitors still found themselves in scoring territory thanks to the game's first turnover. Punt returner Ted Ginn called for a fair catch of Anger's 48-yard kick, but he muffed it when he was clipped by teammate Teddy Williams, and Bucs WR Russell Shepard alertly jumped on the loose ball at the Panthers' 30-yard line. A scrambling 12-yard pass to TE Brandon Myers set up a first down at the 14, and underneath screen to Rodgers made it third-and-one at the five. A false start before the next snap increased the level of difficulty, as did a delay-of-game flag moments later. Winston just missed Jackson on third-and-11 and Aguayo knocked his 33-yard field goal attempt off the right upright to render the turnover moot.
The Panthers' next drive got close to Bucs territory but ended when Daryl Smith intercepted a pass that was tipped away from Benjamin by Hargreaves. The Bucs thus re-inherited the ball at their own 42 with four minutes left in the first half. Winston's scramble converted a third-and-four, with the quarterback somehow recovering his own fumble at the bottom of the pile as the two-minute warning arrived. Two strikes to Evans led to a first down at the Panthers' 22. The Bucs got no closer and settled for Aguayo's 35-yarder to make it 7-6 with 43 seconds left in the half.
Anderson hit Olsen for 24 and then Benjamin for 18 to quickly get the Panthers into Bucs territory, and Olsen got out of bounds with a 20-yard gain to the 20 with 10 seconds to play. One crack to Olsen in the end zone was broken up by Kwon Alexander, so the Panthers brought on Graham Gano to try a 43-yard field goal. The Bucs held on to their first-half shutout when Gano pushed his try wide to the left.
Carolina got the ball to start the second half and quickly moved into scoring range on a 34-yard catch-and-run by Olsen on third-and-one. Another 22-yard grab by Olsen made it first-and-goal at the three. It took four plays from there but Artis-Payne gave the Panthers their first lead with a one-yard dive on fourth-and-goal.
After the Bucs' offense went three-and-out the defense got a quick stop of Carolina, only to have the drive extended when DE Howard Jones was flagged for roughing the punter. Anderson immediately up top to Olsen for a gain of 33 to the Bucs' 12 and Artis-Payne scored from 12 yards out on the next play.
A tackle-breaking 11-yard run got Tampa Bay's next drive off to a good start and the Winston found tight end Cameron Brate for a gain of 38 on a well-executed bit of misdirection on play-action. That put the ball at Carolina's 26, and Evans scored on the next play when he got behind the defense and Winston found him with a perfect lob as he crossed the goal line. The Bucs went for two and tied the game on a quick dart to WR Adam Humphries, who was just across the goal-line.
After an exchange of punts, the Panthers got across midfield just as the third quarter expired. However, two plays into the fourth period, defensive end DaVonte Lambert forced a fumble by Anderson at the end of a third-down scramble and Will Gholston recovered for the Buccaneers at their own 40. However, the turnover failed to produce points as two downfield shots missed and Winston was sacked by S Tre Boston on third down.
Another big Olsen catch, this one for 20 yards, kick-started the ensuing Panthers drive, which reached a first-and-10 at the Bucs' 17 on Olsen's next grab. However, the Bucs turned the drive away at the last minute when Anderson tried to go to Olsen one more time and the ball was intercepted by a leaping Grimes in the end zone.
Catches of 12 and 16 yards by Evans and a 15-yard late-hit call on Panthers LB A.J. Klein helped the Bucs get into field goal range with just under four minutes to play but Aguayo missed for a second time, on this occasion pushing a 46-yard try wide to the left.