MNF moments, No. 7: Colts' comeback

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
Peyton ManningAP Photo/Scott Audette
To celebrate the 45th season of "Monday Night Football," a panel of contributors has selected the 45 most memorable moments in MNF history. Follow along as we reveal one per day and count down to this season's MNF debut.

No. 7: Colts 38, Buccaneers 35, OT | Oct. 6, 2003

After Ronde Barber returned a Peyton Manning interception 29 yards for a touchdown with 5:09 left in the fourth quarter, the Indianapolis Colts were seemingly finished. The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers had taken a 35-14 lead, and their stout defense had limited the Colts' explosive offense all night.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Brad Pyatt would break off a 90-yard return to give the Colts some life.

James Mungro scored on a fourth-and-1 run from the Buccaneers' 3-yard line to cut the deficit to 14 with 3:37 remaining. Indianapolis then recovered an onside kick, and Manning would eventually convert another fourth down into a Colts' score, this time a 28-yard pass to Marvin Harrison with 2:29 remaining.

The Colts failed to recover another onside kick, but the defense held. With 35 seconds left, the Colts tied the game at 35 all on a Ricky Williams (not that one, this one) 1-yard rush.

The 21-point rally with less than four minutes would be the largest comeback in NFL history, and the victory would be completed in overtime with a 29-yard Mike Vanderjagt field goal.

Who's returning for the Bucs?

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
TAMPA, Fla. – When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left Solomon Patton off their 53-man roster, they seemingly left the kickoff and punt-return jobs wide open.

Patton handled the duties through much of the preseason and had fared pretty well. The common assumption was that Patton would be returning punts and kickoffs in the regular season.

Patton now is stashed on the practice squad. But the Bucs didn’t leave him off the 53-man roster without a plan in place. It just might be a little difficult to see that plan because no one else stood out on returns in camp or the preseason.

But it appears as if the Bucs are ready to use backup running back Bobby Rainey as their punt returner. Rainey caught some punts in the preseason and really is the only option on the current roster.

Rainey also could end up handling kickoff returns. But there at least are some other options there. Backup running back Mike James and reserve receiver Chris Owusu worked as kickoff returners in training camp and could be options.
TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a series of roster moves Sunday, including the addition of an offensive lineman and six players signed to the practice squad.

The Bucs claimed offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey off waivers from the Cleveland Browns. Gilkey appeared in six games with one start for the Browns last season. To make room for Gilkey, the Bucs waived offensive lineman Josh Allen.

The Bucs also started filling out their practice squad with some familiar faces. Tight end Cameron Brate, running back Jeff Demps, quarterback Mike Kafka, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo and wide receiver Solomon Patton were signed to the practice squad. All six of those players were with the Bucs in the preseason.

The Bucs still have four more spots to fill on the practice squad.
Most significant move: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a leap of faith when they released kicker Connor Barth and decided to go with Patrick Murray. Barth was a proven veteran. Murray is an unknown. But Murray had an excellent preseason to win the job. Barth didn’t look quite as sharp and didn’t seem to have as much distance as he did before missing all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon. Barth also was scheduled to make more than $3 million this season. Murray will only cost the team $420,000.

Not so fast: A lot of people were under the assumption running back Jeff Demps would make the roster because the Bucs were so infatuated with his speed. But Demps was released Saturday. The former Olympic sprinter was given every opportunity as a running back and a return man, but he never was able to make things happen in space. Still, Demps has rare speed and the Bucs likely will try to get him signed to the practice squad, where he might be able to develop into something.

What’s next: The Bucs likely aren’t done with roster moves. They’re likely to bring in some players who were released elsewhere. Depth at linebacker, safety and on the offensive line still could be priorities.

Bucs’ cuts: Released WR Solomon Patton, RB Jeff Demps, QB Mike Kafka, DT Matthew Masifilo, DT Ronald Talley, K Connor Barth, TE Cameron Brate, DE Larry English, G Jamon Meredith, DB Marc Anthony, LB Nate Askew, T Edawn Coughman, CB Kip Edwards, DE T.J. Fatinikun, CB Anthony Gaitor, LB Ka'Lial Glaud, CB Keith Lewis, LB Brandon Magee, OL Andrew Miller, FB Lonnie Pryor, DL Ronald Talley, S Major Wright and OL Jeremiah Warren.
TAMPA, Fla. -- With the start of the regular season just around the corner, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith talked about his offensive and defensive lines Friday.

You might be a little surprised with what he had to say. Smith had plenty of praise for an offensive line that has been criticized and has undergone a lot of changes. On the flip side, he had a challenge for a defensive line that many consider one of the team’s strengths.

Let’s start with the offensive line. Right tackle Demar Dotson is the only remaining starter from a line that wasn’t very good a year ago. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins were brought in as free agents. After some early struggles on the interior in the preseason, the Bucs made a big trade this week to bring in six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins.

Smith said he’s not concerned about the chemistry of the offensive line even though Mankins has yet to practice with the team.

“It’s been talked an awful lot about “the offensive line, they have to play together’’,’’ Smith said. “I don’t buy that at all. I think you get the best possible guys you can, and you make moves when you have to.’’

“He knows how to get himself ready. He’ll have to change a little bit of terminology but not as much as you would assume. He’ll fit in right away and I don’t think that will be a big issue. Some of our other offensive linemen haven’t played a lot together. But these three preseason games, they’ve come together. Based on the way they played the last time they were together [in the third preseason game], we like where we’re at going into the Carolina game [to open the regular season].’’

The defensive line is supposed to be a strength. The Bucs haven’t gotten some pressure from their starters, but the team plans to use a rotation. Smith said he hasn’t been impressed with the play of some of his backup defensive linemen.

“Very concerned about it,’’ Smith said. “It’s disappointing, the pressure we weren’t able to get. It’s been documented how we want to play football. As we look at it, the challenge for our defensive line this week will be to outplay Carolina’s defensive line. They have an excellent front seven. We need to play better than them up front. That isn’t just four guys. A couple other players have to step up. We’ll normally dress seven defensive linemen. All of them will play and we need production from all of them.’’

Fantasy: Tim Wright

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29


Christopher Harris analyzes Tim Wright's draft value.

Fantasy: Doug Martin

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29


Christopher Harris analyzes Doug Martin's draft value.

Bucs cut kicker Connor Barth

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buccaneers pulled a bit of a surprise on Friday afternoon by releasing kicker Connor Barth.

 Presumably, the kicking job now belongs to Patrick Murray, who had a strong training camp. Barth had been with the Buccaneers since 2009. But he missed all of last season after tearing his Achilles tendon in a charity basketball game.

The decision also might have been influenced by economics. Barth was scheduled to earn $2 million in base salary. Plus, he was slated to earn $1.15 million in weekly bonuses if he made the 53-man roster. The Bucs take no cap hit for releasing Barth.

Murray is scheduled to make $420,000 this season.

Bucs begin trimming roster

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began the process of trimming their roster Friday with no major surprises.

The Bucs parted ways with 12 players. That leaves the roster count at 63. It has to be down to 53 by Saturday afternoon.

Offensive lineman Jamon Meredith, who once appeared to have a shot at a starting guard job, was the only vested veteran to be waived.

Defensive back Marc Anthony, linebacker Nate Askew, tackle Edawn Coughman, cornerback Kip Edwards, defensive end T.J. Fatinikun, cornerback Anthon Gaitor, linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud, cornerback Keith Lewis, offensive lineman Andrew Miller, fullback Lonnie Pryor and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren were waived.
Examining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster:

The Bucs are content to go with two quarterbacks.


Rookie Charles Sims should return from injury around midseason.


Patton appears likely to make the roster as the return man. Herron has come on strong after a rocky start to camp.


The trade of Tim Wright saved Stocker's job.


After the trade for Mankins, the offensive line suddenly is a lot more solid.


Solomon and English have played well and that could mean the end of the road for Da'Quan Bowers.


The Bucs still could bring in a linebacker from outside for depth.


Jenkins has been hurt most of the preseason, but his roster spot is safe.


The Bucs believed this position was deep enough to trade away Kelcie McCray last week.


DePaola edges out Jeremy Cain out for the job as long snapper.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Every year, it seems like the NFL floats the idea of shortening the preseason. But nothing ever happens.

Next time the topic comes up, we have a new Exhibit A on why four preseason games are about two too many. In Thursday night's 24-10 victory by the Washington Redskins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, backups started for both teams. And even that first group of backups didn't play long. Much of the game was played by guys who will be released when rosters have to be cut to 53 on Saturday afternoon.

That led to some football that was less than pretty. Especially from the Buccaneers.

The Bucs, who finished the preseason with a 1-3 record, put up a whopping 14 yards of total offense in the first half alone. Things got only slight better in the second half.

But the good news for the Bucs is that the preseason is over. Their starters will be back in action when they open the regular season against Carolina.

Some other observations:
  • Take this for what it's worth, which may not be a lot. The Bucs started Patrick Omameh at right guard and Oniel Cousins at left guard. Newly-acquired Logan Mankins is going to be the starting left guard. The Bucs have to choose between Omameh and Cousins on the right side. I think Omameh has a slight edge.
  • I was surprised quarterback Mike Glennon played only one series. I would have liked to see him have the chance to get some rhythm going. Glennon is one Josh McCown injury away from starting. I doubt Mike Kafka, who replaced Glennon, will even make the team. Then again, maybe the Bucs didn't want to expose Glennon to possible injury behind a shaky offensive line.
  • Linebacker Danny Lansanah seems to have locked up a roster spot. Lansanah had a nice training camp and he continued to impress Thursday night. Lansanah tackled Washington's Evan Royster for a loss in the first quarter.
  • Cornerback Keith Lewis came up with an interception in the second quarter. But it probably was too little too late. The Bucs are pretty well set at cornerback and Lewis isn't likely to get a roster spot.
  • Safety Keith Tandy probably already had clinched a roster spot. But Tandy looked like he was playing for his job. He was all over the field and led the team in tackles.
  • Defensive end Scott Solomon continued his strong preseason. Solomon produced a third-quarter sack. He has a decent chance of making the roster.
  • Solomon Patton, who appears likely to make the team as a return man, also showed he can contribute as a wide receiver. Patton caught a touchdown pass from Kafka in the third quarter.
  • Wide receiver Louis Murphy left the game with a back injury and did not return.
TAMPA, Fla. – He wore a Buccaneers hat and decked his children out in the colors of his new team. But it was pretty obvious Thursday night that Logan Mankins still is processing the trade that brought him from the New England Patriots, the only team he ever has played for.

Mankins was introduced to the Tampa Bay media before the preseason game with Washington. During the 10-minute session, Mankins looked and talked like a man still in shock.

“I knew what I had there, but I don’t know what I have here," Mankins said. “Only time will tell."

Mankins sounded like a man whose mind still is in two places. That’s understandable, as the trade happened only two days ago.

“It’s a sad day not to be with those guys," Mankins said. “But I’ve got new teammates here that I’m looking forward to developing relationships with."

A six-time Pro Bowl guard, Mankins is going to have to start developing those relationships quickly. The Bucs open the season in just over a week against the Carolina Panthers. Mankins said it will be a challenge to quickly build chemistry with a new offensive line.

“It’s going to be tough," Mankins said. “We’ve got a week until the first game. I’m going to try to take it in stride. I’ve got the weekend to try to get down some of the mental part of it and then all next week at practice. I’m sure the guys are going to help me as much as possible and I’m going to try my best."

Since the trade, there have been suggestions in the New England media that Mankins, 32, is in steep decline and cite that as a reason why the Patriots were willing to let him go.

“I might be in a little decline," Mankins said. “I don’t know. How many guys that have played 150 games are still on the upswing? I’ve played a lot of games, a lot of snaps. But I feel like I still have something to give this game and give to this team. I’ll try my hardest for them. If it’s not good enough, it’s not. If it is, it is."

Mankins might not have been wanted in New England any longer. But his arrival has been greeted warmly by Tampa Bay fans, who had been worried about the Bucs’ situation at guard. If Mankins is anything close to what he used to be, he should solidify Tampa Bay’s offensive line. And Mankins doesn’t want to let his new team down.

‘When someone invests in you, I don’t want to disappoint them," Mankins said. “I want to be the player they think they’re getting. I hope I can deliver what they expect."

Christopher Harris is back in the film room to discuss whether or not you should draft Doug Martin this season.

W2W4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) host the Washington Redskins (2-1) in the preseason finale for both teams Thursday night.

Three things to watch:

Mike Glennon: The backup quarterback will get most of the action with the starters expected to play very little. Glennon hasn’t looked sharp in his last two games, but that might be due in large part to some poor play from the offensive line. Glennon needs a strong performance to make the team more comfortable with him as the backup for Josh McCown.

Larry English: The former first-round pick by San Diego recorded two sacks in the last preseason game. Although English was a bust with the Chargers, there’s hope he can resurrect his career. Another strong performance by English could put him on the roster ahead of Da’Quan Bowers, who has missed much of the preseason due to an injury.

The backup offensive line: Newly acquired Logan Mankins will not play and it’s likely the other starters will sit or appear only briefly. The backup jobs remain very much up for grabs. Even though they were drafted, rookies Kadeem Edwards and Kevin Pamphile are on the bubble.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to find out early how good they are. After opening the schedule at home against Carolina and St. Louis, they have a three-game stretch of road games against teams that should be good. The string starts on a Thursday night at Atlanta. Next is a Sept. 28 game at Pittsburgh, followed by an Oct. 5 game at New Orleans. That's a huge early test for a team that has a new coaching staff and lots of new players. If the Bucs don't win at least one of those three games, they could fall out of playoff contention early.

Complete Bucs season preview.