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Shaq Attack Leads Suffocating Defense Against Panthers

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Shaquil Barrett said he "found a groove" in the second quarter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 20-14 win over Carolina on Thursday night, and the results were indeed groovy.

Barrett, an outside linebacker signed away from Denver in unrestricted free agency this past spring, recorded all three of the Buccaneers' sacks of Cam Newton on Thursday, in addition to another quarterback hit and multiple other players spent in the Carolina backfield. Along the way, Barrett accomplished some feats that are pretty rare in the history of his new franchise and also matched a personal best.

For instance:

·    He had all three of his sacks in the third quarter, in the span of six drop-backs over two drives by Newton. Barrett is only the second Buccaneer since 1991 (as far back as this data is available) to have that many sacks in a single quarter. The only other player on that list is the great Simeon Rice, who routinely harassed the Saints and had a three-sack quarter in New Orleans on Dec. 1, 2002.

·    Barrett became the first Buccaneer with a three-sack game since Jacquies Smith on Sept. 20, 2015, also coincidentally in New Orleans and also coincidentally in the second game of the season.

·    His three-sack game was just the 19th in team history by a Buccaneer, since sacks became an official statistic in 1992, and just the third this decade.

·    Barrett, who also had Tampa Bay's only sack in Week One against San Francisco, made it two games in a row with a QB takedown. He has now done that three times in his career, but not since the first season he played in Denver, 2015 after a year on the practice squad.

·    Barrett's 4.0 sacks this season have already eclipsed his total of 3.0 from last season, which he posted in 13 games (but no starts). Barrett's career high in a season is 5.5, set in 2015.

Perhaps most impressively, particularly given that this is Barrett's first season in Tampa, his 4.0 sacks match the most any Buccaneer has ever had through the first two games of a season. That includes the 1976-81 seasons – prime Lee Roy Selmon years – when sacks were compiled in box scores but not considered an official statistic. The list below includes all the players in Bucs history who have had at least 3.0 sacks through the first two games of a season, and what their final total in that category was at season's end.

Most Sacks Through Season's First Two Games, Buccaneers History

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(* Selmon was limited by injury to eight games in 1976.)

Barrett's sack blitz helped halt Carolina's first two drives of the second half. Fellow defender, Vernon Hargreaves III, was responsible for killing the Panthers' very last possession. Hargreaves responded to Christian McCaffrey's direct-snap, fake-reverse run to the left, rushing up to meet him on fourth down and drive him out of bounds short of the first-down marker.

That was the last of Hargreaves' 12 tackles on the day, which was a new personal high. It also marked the first time that a Buccaneers cornerback had hit double digits in tackles in game in almost seven years. The last Buc corner to do that was none other than the best tackling corner in franchise history, and one of the best in NFL history, Ronde Barber. Barber had 10 tackles in a Bucs win at Minnesota on Oct. 25, 2012.

Hargreaves' final stop on McCaffrey turned one of Carolina's red-zone incursions into a fruitless effort. In fact, the Panthers got very little out of their trips inside the Bucs' 20, as their first two efforts ended in field goals. This marks the second straight game that Tampa Bay's defense has allowed no touchdowns in three red zone trips by their opponent, as they had the exact same result against San Francisco in Week One.

In last week's Data Crunch, we noted that the San Francisco game marked the first time in six years (since Sept. 15, 2003) that a Buccaneers' defense had pitched a touchdown shutout in the red zone against at least three such drives. Clearly, then, it's an extremely unusual occurrence to pull off that feat in two consecutive games. Perhaps unprecedented.

The Buccaneers have game-by-game breakdowns of red zone drives going back through the 1997 season, and at no other time in that span has the team had two consecutive games in which it allowed no touchdowns on at least three opponent red zone possessions. In fact, the only other season in which the Buccaneers' defense accomplished that feat in two different games, consecutively or not, was 2003.

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Jameis Winston *had a sharp day against the Panthers, completing 16 of 25 passes (64.0%) for 208 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, a stat combination that resulted in a passer rating of 103.4 on the evening. That marks *the fifth time in Winston's last five games that he has surpassed 100 in the passer rating category.

WR Chris Godwin was Winston's favorite target on Thursday, with nine passes coming his way. That produced eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown to lead both teams in yardage. Even though it was his impressive blocking that ultimately won Godwin a game ball from Head coach Bruce Arians, Godwin's pass-catching was obviously critical to the Bucs' victory, too. Dating back to last season, this marked the fourth time in Godwin's last 10 outings that he has surpassed the century mark. He got there with receptions of 24, 22, 22 and 20 yards, and that also marked the first time in Godwin's career that he has recorded at least four catches of 20 or more yards in the same game.

Two games is not enough of a predictor as to how an entire 16-game season will play out, but Godwin's setting an early pace that, if maintained, would see him crack 1,000 yards for the first time in his three-year career. His per-game average of 87.0 yards per game would lead to 1,3922 on the season, if maintained.

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