Buccaneers beat Panthers in Schiano's debut

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Greg Schiano era officially began in Tampa Bay on Sunday and the Bucs made it a successful debut by beating Carolina at home 16-10.

With a new look and a new identity, the Bucs knocked off a divisional foe that had beaten them five out of the last seven meetings, shutting down the Panthers' multi-dimensional offense.

Carolina's second-year quarterback, Cam Newton, had virtually all running lanes shut down by a hungry Buccaneer defense that managed to pick off Newton twice and sack him three times.

"It felt like old times. When we were a defense back in the day, guys played so fast," said safety Ronde Barber. "We swarmed the ball all day long. We kept Cam (Newton) in check."

Without the aid of running back Jonathan Stewart, who sat out with an ankle sprain, and all eyes on DeAngelo Williams, Carolina's ground game was stuck in neutral. The Panthers finished with just 10 yards total rushing.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers marched down the field on their opening drive, with quarterback Josh Freeman completing 7-of-7 passes, capping things off with a 6-yard touchdown strike to receiver Mike Williams.

"We always say to ourselves that we want to start fast," said Williams, who saw an opportunity when the Panthers' defense keyed on Vincent Jackson. "That can take the heart out of an (opponent) if you can go out and do that."

The Bucs settled for a field goal from kicker Connor Barth of their next drive to extend the Bucs' lead to 10-0. It was a lead they did not relinquish the entire game.

The Panthers trailed 13-0 before they began a rally in the third quarter with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Brandon LaFell, inching Carolina within six points.

Combined with some defensive adjustments, the Panthers stayed in the game until the fourth quarter. With 11:19 remaining in a one-possession ball game, the Bucs' Aqib Talib blocked a punt that was recovered by teammate Adrian Clayborn at the Carolina 47-yard line.

"I've never blocked a punt before in my life," said Talib. "I just came down free. We kind of knew how they were trying to block us, and (special teams coordinator) Bob Ligashesky schemed it up perfect."

The Bucs turned that into a 40-yard field goal from Barth to make it 16-7.

Then with 5:06 on the clock, the Panthers engineered an impressive 86-yard drive, with the help of a 20-yard pass to Mike Tolbert and a 51-yard pass to newly acquired receiver Louis Murphy. But the drive ended at the Tampa Bay 3-yard line and the Panthers were forced to settle for a field goal to make it 16-10.

The Bucs then got two first downs on the ensuring possession to run out the remaining 2:46.

"We had opportunities," said Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. "That's what I'm disappointed in more than anything else. We left points on the field."

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen added, "It's not like us. We [have] got to get better if we expect to do what we were expecting to do this year. But we are going to have to do a lot better than that."

Notes: Schiano becomes the first Buccaneer head coach to win in his debut since Sam Wyche in 1992...Ronde Barber started his 200th consecutive game for Tampa Bay, but it was his first time playing at free safety. The 16-year veteran recorded a sack and an interception. Interestingly, Schiano had Barber line up at corner on the defense's first play so he could officially get his 200th start at the position.
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