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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' late-game rally at Carolina all part of practice plan

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Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 01:41 AM
TAMPA -

The seeds of what sprouted Sunday into one of the most improbable comeback victories in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history were planted five days earlier during a practice at One Buc Place.

As he began prepping his team for its game against Carolina, Bucs coach Greg Schiano devoted an entire segment of his Wednesday workout to a situation in which the Bucs trailed by eight points with less than a minute to play.

That's why no one on the Tampa Bay sideline was surprised or ill-prepared when that very scenario materialized late in the fourth quarter of what became a 27-21 overtime victory against the Panthers.

"We practice that situation against our own defense all the time,'' Bucs receiver Mike Williams said. "Down by eight points, ball on our own 20-yard line, 50 seconds left on the clock – how are we going to get there?

"Sometimes we beat the defense and sometimes they beat us, but that's why we were able to execute so well, because we prepare for that kind of stuff. I'm telling you, Coach Schiano is the most prepared coach I've ever played for.''

Receiver Vincent Jackson agrees.

"Coach Schiano has to be at the top of the class in terms of preparation,'' said Jackson, who 12 seconds left caught the touchdown pass and the two-point conversion that sent the game to overtime.

"There is not a detail that's missed with him. We work on it in the classroom, then work on it out on the field. He just wants to make sure that we're one of the most prepared teams in the league.''

They sure looked like it on Sunday. Trailing 21-13 with 62 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Bucs went 80 yards in 50 seconds to tie the game with a 24-yard touchdown pass and 2-yard conversion pass to Jackson.

During overtime, Tampa Bay went another 80 yards in 4:20 to win on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to tight end Dallas Clark, who believes the Bucs' calm late in the game was borne out of Schiano's penchant for practicing those situations.

"There are so many things that happen during a game and it's just been something that (Schiano) hasn't allowed us to lose sight of,'' Clark said. "It's very important for us to understand that anything can happen.''

Preparation is definitely one of the hallmarks of Schiano's program. It's as important to him as ball security.

"Preparation is everything to us,'' Schiano said. "It goes back to our philosophy of concerning ourselves only with the things we can control and preparation is something we can control.

"So, what we try to do is out-prepare ourselves every week. You know, what can we do just a little bit better than the week before? That's how you learn and get better every week.''

What the Bucs are learning about Schiano is he has an almost uncanny ability to prepare them for rare scenarios that often arise within days of his devoting practice time to them.

"It seems like every time we practice a situation during the week, it comes up during the game,'' defensive end Michael Bennett said. "Like the situation we had (Sunday), we just practiced for that last week.''

Those practice sessions won't amount to much, Schiano said, if the players don't buy into the lesson being taught. So far, that has not been a problem.

"I think anyone who really loves the game of football enjoys that part of it," Schiano said. "They enjoy learning the strategy and the situational aspect of it, and we have a lot of guys on this team who love the game of football.''


rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979 Twitter: @RCummingsTBO

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