Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams called Greg Schiano the most prepared coach he’s seen.
When the Buccaneers got the ball back, down eight at their 20 with 1:02 remaining and no timeouts, it was just like practice.
The routine allowed Tampa Bay to rally for a 27-21 overtime victory Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
“We do the same situations every single day,” Williams said. “We practice that situation for 50 seconds. We are like 50 seconds on our 20 with no timeouts, how are we going to get down there? And we do it every time.
“We came up and we executed.”
Despite having a forgettable day before the final drive, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman was able to shake off a bad game and drive Tampa Bay 80 yards in 50 seconds. Then, because of more planning, the Bucs were able to execute the 2-point conversion play they had practiced all week.
Running back Doug Martin, who finished with 138 rushing yards, couldn’t be utilized on the ground because the Bucs were hamstrung by the lack of timeouts. Freeman instead had to trust his arm, which had forsaken him twice in the form of interceptions, including one that went for a Panthers touchdown.
“I think having the right kind of mindset is a big part of playing quarterback,” Freeman said. “Yes, you are going to make some mistakes. And today, I made a few too many – but at the same time, as a team, nobody lost faith or confidence.”
A pass to Tiquan Underwood went for 18 yards, and a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness was tacked on.
Then it turned into the Vincent Jackson show. A 17-yard gain on a slant on third down put the Bucs on the Carolina 24.
Then Freeman threw a laser in the middle of the field to Jackson for the touchdown. With linebacker Luke Kuechly downfield covering, Jackson plucked the ball from the air just as safety Charles Godfrey came over to help.
For the 2-point conversion the Bucs needed to tie the game, Schiano called the play they had run all week in practice. Out of the shotgun, Freeman used play action with Martin to get the defense to bite.
Jackson flashed in the end zone, beating Sherrod Martin, and made the catch going to the ground.
The play came after Carolina called a timeout, which allowed the Bucs to switch formations and get the matchup they wanted.
“That was a play that we did spend a lot of time trying to time it up,” Freeman said. “It was an option. We were going to get the alert on the first play, and they called time out and switched it up a little bit. It gave us a chance to get Vincent that matchup, and he did an awesome job beating the defender and making the catch.”
The Buccaneers have bought into their rookie coach’s system, one that has them on a four-game winning streak after they completed a sweep of the season series with Carolina.
“We’ve talked about situations like that,” Schiano said. “We get into one, and our guys executed really, really well.
“I think that’s the key. They trusted their training. They trusted each other.”
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