- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: The Buccaneers got their spot on prime time television, and they won. It wasn’t pretty, and it came against quarterback Curtis Painter and an Indianapolis team that had to play a third-string left tackle much of the night due to injuries. There were Tampa Bay struggles on offense and defense. But, hey, a win is a win, even if Peyton Manning isn't on the field. The Bucs are 3-1 and tied with the New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South.
Play of the night: A 35-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount with 3:15 remaining put the Bucs ahead to stay. Kind of makes you wonder why the Bucs didn’t just try to pound Blount up the middle all night against an undersized Indianapolis defense that continues to get more banged up every week.
What I liked: The Bucs might not always play pretty, but they are resilient. If you keep pulling games out at the end, you’re not lucky. You’re creating your own luck.
What I didn’t like: Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib is a marvelous physical talent. But he’s an enigma. I saw him drop a sure interception, get beat in coverage, whiff on at least one tackle and get called for a penalty. The Bucs like to say this guy is an elite cornerback. But he’s not going to be that until he starts playing at a high level consistently.
The surprise wide receiver: Mike Williams is off to a quiet start in his second year, and Arrelious Benn is coming off a major knee injury. But Tampa Bay has another second-year receiver who is doing big things. That’s Preston Parker, who made the team as an undrafted free agent last season. He played mostly on special teams last season but has been making an impact as a receiver. He had his first NFL touchdown catch Monday night.
The growth of the defensive line: You can see this gradually becoming a strength for the Bucs. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is starting to make plays consistently. Rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn keeps making plays every week, and defensive end Michael Bennett is playing well enough that nobody’s calling for second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers just yet. Put four early draft picks into your defensive line in two years, and you should get results. The Bucs are getting them quickly.
What’s next: The Bucs don’t have an easy stretch ahead. They have to go all the way to San Francisco to play the 49ers on Sunday. Then, they come home to play the Saints and they go to London to play the Bears after that. They get a bye week when they come back from their London trip, but the flip side of that is they’ve got the Saints waiting for another game after the break.