TAMPA — The way the 2013 season had been unfolding for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, head coach Greg Schiano couldn’t have been too surprised by the lousy timing Monday night.
With Tampa Bay facing a third down at the Miami 1-yard line on the game’s opening possession, the Bucs ordered up a pass to tackle-eligible Donald Penn, who lined up on the left side.
But the snap was delayed because rookie running back Mike James was still on the ground, writhing in pain from a season-ending fractured ankle suffered on the previous play.
Penn ended up catching a scoring pass from rookie QB Mike Glennon, almost three years to the day he made another 1-yard TD reception at San Francisco, but Schiano and his coaching staff experienced some swirling emotions during the prolonged delay.
“We’d already called the play when Mike goes down,’’ Schiano said Tuesday. “During that stoppage, I knew we were going to recognize Donald because his 100th (consecutive) start came on the road. I was great with that, but then (quarterbacks coach) John McNulty says, ‘They’re playing it on the board.’ ”
As a video of of Penn’s previous scoring catch against the 49ers was displayed for all to see in front of a sold-out crowd at Raymond James Stadium — and any attentive Dolphins — Bucs coaches couldn’t believe their eyes.
“The conversation on the headset, you wouldn’t believe it,’’ Schiano said. “You can’t make this stuff up. But cooler minds prevailed. One of our coaches said we can’t let the JumboTron make our decisions.’’
Despite showing their hand inadvertently, the Bucs stuck with the original call and Penn found himself uncovered for a quick 7-0 advantage.
“I’ve been lobbying for the play all year and they finally put it in,’’ said Penn. “I was a little nervous because they showed me on the big screen, but it was a great pass by Mike.’’
Long time coming
The Bucs have made a habit of allowing fourth-quarter leads to disappear, but with Monday night’s game on the line, it was Tampa Bay’s offense that dug down deep.
“On that one drive, we kind of imposed our will,’’ Bucs C Jeremy Zuttah said of an 80-yard march capped by Bobby Rainey’s go-ahead 1-yard TD run with 10:19 remaining.
“We all looked at each other in the huddle and said we’re not going to lose this one. That was physical. We kept it going, kept it going and put it in the end zone.’’
The Bucs kept it on the ground for eight of the nine plays, opening with five consecutive runs by Brian Leonard.
“We had the whole world watching us Monday night,’’ Zuttah said. “People who hadn’t seen us play probably thought one way about us. I think we showed them we are a capable team. And I thought our fans played their part, too. They were great. Even when you were driving to the stadium, you knew it was going to be a little different game.’’
Out of the shadows
While the Bucs were losing their first eight matchups, third-year DE Da’Quan Bowers faded into obscurity, losing his starting job to Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.
But Bowers announced his presence loudly in crunch time Monday, sharing a sack of Ryan Tannehill with rookie DT William Gholston on Miami’s final drive.
“It was time for the defense to step up,’’ said Bowers, who entered the game with five tackles and zero sacks. ”We’ve been in that situation numerous times and I’m glad we finally got it done when it mattered.’’
Bowers hasn’t started since Week 3 and the former second-round draft pick out of Clemson said he has remained resolute during a disappointing season.
“It is what it is,’’ he said. “I’m not a selfish person — I’m a team player. If they want me to be a situational third-down rusher, that’s what I’m going to be. One thing I know is I’m definitely going to compete to the end.’’