As the Panthers were driving late in the fourth quarter down 20-14 Thursday night, everything came down to a fourth-and-1 play at the Tampa Bay-yard line. As Carolina lined up to run their play, the Buccaneers called a timeout.
There was a replay during the timeout of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and head coach Bruce Arians talking to each other and Bowles pointing something out on the field before telling Arians to use the timeout. It was an incredibly tough spot to be in. Tampa Bay only had two timeouts remaining, and if the Panthers were to score and take a 21-20 lead, the Buccaneers would be left with just one timeout and roughly one minute remaining to go win the game. Bowles was shaking his head in disgust that he even had to use the timeout, but it paid off in a massive way.
The Panthers ran a play that I have been hoping a team would use ever since the Eagles used their Philly Special on fourth down in the Super Bowl that resulted in Nick Foles catching a touchdown pass. Teams duplicated it last season with success, and if you aren't familiar with the play it's a direct snap to the running back, who then pitches it to a receiver in reverse. The quarterback sneaks out of the backfield and has generally been wide-open for a pass from the receiver.
It's just a matter of time before teams catch on, however, and I've been waiting for an offense to run a fake Philly Special where the running back keeps the football and runs it for positive yardage as the defense hesitates on the fake reverse pitch. This is exactly what Carolina ran with Christian McCaffrey Thursday night, but Bowles sniffed it out the entire way. Tampa Bay had three different defenders hounding McCaffrey, and despite his best efforts, he came up short and the Buccaneers won the game.
Bowles is the real deal, and I'm buying his defense this week. I'll be breaking down some other intriguing results from Week 2, and how they can better our betting process for Week 3.