The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the Carolina Panthers, they were a hapless 0-7 football team sitting in the cellar of the NFC South. Since then, they’ve managed three straight wins and will try to make it four-in-a-row when travel to Bank of America Stadium Sunday for round two.
Second-year strong safety Mark Barron talks about what he and his teammates learned from that first game against Carolina (including a pretty honest self-assessment), how they were able to turn things around after such a disastrous start and the keys to stopping Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
JL: The first time you guys faced Carolina, in October, things didn’t go so well…31-13 was the final score. What did you learn from that?
MB: think we should have worked harder during the week. It was a short week. That was a short week that week. I don’t think we were as prepared as we should have been. I think that was one of the biggest things – that preparation that week probably wasn’t what it needed to be.
JL: At that point in the season, things seemed to really be at their worst. You guys were 0-8. There were all of those “Fire Schiano” signs near the tunnel as you guys left the stadium. And then the Dolphins came to town after a close Seattle game, and things started to turn around…
MB: I don’t know exactly what it was that made things turn around for us but I think everybody was just kind of trying to figure out how to play together. The camaraderie got better, I guess. With all the losing, we had to stick together. Like you said, there was a lot going on, a lot of turmoil at the time, so we all had to stick together. Maybe that’s one of the things that helped us and helped us turn everything around, the fact that we had to actually like try to come together and keep everything tight at the time.
JL: And then after that, you guys won three-straight. People have started to take notice. And if you watched the Detroit game on Thanksgiving, you can see, that’s a darn good football team you beat.
MB: Most definitely. That’s the thing…we’re a good team too. We just couldn’t figure out ways to win. I think that’s something that we figured out how to do and hopefully we can keep it rolling.
JL: Now one thing I’ve noticed this year is that you guys have struggled a little bit against those mobile quarterbacks. What have you learned after facing Russell Wilson and facing Cam [Newton] the first time around?
MB: The thing about stopping mobile quarterbacks is you have to be disciplined. Everybody has to be disciplined and do their job and the rush lanes – you have to stay in your rush lanes. As long as you do that, you can make it real hard on those guys because they have to stay in the pocket. That’s one thing you want to do, is be very disciplined with those quarterbacks that can run around and move around like that.
JL: With the adversity that you guys had last week — the fact that [safety] Dashon [Goldson] wasn’t playing, so you had a little more pressure on you to begin with, and the fact that Darrelle [Revis] came out, and you guys had to stop Calvin Johnson – what did it mean for you to get that win and see some of the other guys step up, guys like Kelcie McCray, Keith Tandy, Danny Gorrer after the groin injury and Johnthan Banks…to be a rookie and have a moment like that, it can do a lot for you confidence-wise.
MB: That’s exactly what it was. It was a confidence booster for us. We know we have a lot of talented guys in our secondary. Everybody just doesn’t have that experience, so you really don’t know what those guys will do when they get in the game and get in those situations, but to see those guys actually get in and come through in the clutch, I feel like it was just a confidence booster.
JL: You looking forward to the Iron Bowl?
MB: Yeah, most definitely, man. Auburn’s playing alright this year, so that makes it even better, that makes it an even better game, so I’m most definitely looking forward to it.