TAMPA, Fla. — Scrub the memory. If the loss to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday was a stinker, this rout of the Buffalo Bills was stellar.
There were red flags with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ dud of a defeat to the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. But coach Greg Schiano’s guys recovered and made quick work of the Bills, who lost for the fifth time in six games after a 27-6 rout.
Yes, there was little left to be decided after the second quarter. This was signed, sealed and delivered by halftime, thanks to Bobby Rainey’s 80-yard touchdown run, passes by Mike Glennon to Vincent Jackson and Tim Wright for scores, plus a pair of Rian Lindell field goals to build a 21-point lead at the break.
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Not bad to start an interesting four-game stretch to close the season.
Here are a few thoughts and observations from the Bucs’ fourth victory …
1. The Bucs’ offensive line kept Mike Glennon’s jersey clean.
For good reason, Tampa Bay had to worry about Glennon’s ability to stay off the turf. Buffalo entered with an NFL-best 43 sacks. The Bucs have faced some solid defenses this season, and despite the recent slide, the Bills looked like one of the best Tampa Bay had seen on paper.
Give Buffalo’s D this: It was, by far, the Bills’ best unit of the day. The offense left much to be desired, and the special teams made little impact.
Glennon was only sacked one time. The Bucs earned more than enough licks to earn the comfortable victory. Overall, this was a spotty day for the Bucs’ rookie quarterback — he closed 9-of-25 passing for 90 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions — but the Bills’ offense never did enough to help its defense.
2. Bobby Rainey looked like his old self.
After bursting onto the national radar by shredding the Atlanta Falcons for 163 yards in Week 11, the Bucs’ quick-burst running back was bottled up of late. He was held to 35 yards against the Detroit Lions and 63 against the Panthers, two struggles that muted a loud start to his Tampa Bay career.
The mini-slump was dashed fast Sunday, though. He had 80 yards in one run, an impressive jolt along the sideline that gave the Bucs a lead 18 seconds into the first quarter.
Rainey finished with 127 yards on 22 carries. Not a bad line on a day when Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller entered as the headline rushing threat. If Rainey can repeat this performance in weeks to come, the Bucs will be in good shape.
3. The Bucs didn’t need help, but E.J. Manuel was eager to offer a hand.
Manuel looked every bit of a rookie throughout the day. He closed the first half 6-of-15 passing for 54 yards with two interceptions. Tampa Bay produced a decent pass rush on the Florida State product, but Manuel was timid and indecisive in the pocket.
The Bucs led 24-3 at halftime, so the second half was mostly meaningless. But he finished 18-of-33 passing with 184 yards and four interceptions, a far cry from what Buffalo needed to take Tampa Bay out of its defensive comfort zone.
This rebound job by the Bucs defense was a good sign after Cam Newton toyed with them last week. Manuel has Newton’s tools without the mastery of them. Tampa Bay took advantage of Manuel’s immaturity.
4. The Bucs made Spiller irrelevant.
Manuel is the Bills’ shiny new toy, but Spiller is the proven weapon. He entered with 656 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including three games with at least 100 yards on the ground.
The Clemson product torched the Falcons for a season-high 149 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries last Sunday, but he found things to be tougher sledding today.
Tampa Bay held Spiller to 22 yards on 11 carries. The formula for stopping Buffalo’s offense was simple: Contain the running game and force Manuel to beat you.
The Bucs did the job with the most important part of that equation. Manuel showed he wasn’t capable of leading a comeback.
5. Don’t underestimate how key this victory is for Schiano.
Who knows if there’s a magic number for how many games the Bucs must win in December to guarantee Schiano will return next season? Results like Sunday help his cause, of course, and it’s a notable recovery after the face-plant in Charlotte.
Expecting at least one more Bucs victory isn’t out of the question. The San Francisco 49ers have been inconsistent and the St. Louis Rams are beatable. Tampa Bay, if it plays like it did most of Sunday, can top both. (A win in New Orleans, if the Saints are fighting for the NFC South, seems too much to ask.)
Earning at least a split of these last four games would boost Schiano’s chances of returning here next year.