CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24: Kellen Winslow #82 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fumbles the ball as teammates Dan Connor #55 and Chris Gamble #20 of the Carolina Panthers make a play on the ball during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Continuing our series of weekly top 5 plays on defense we have more of a yeoman's effort to select from this week. The Panthers did make plenty of plays on defense in the 48-16 win yet several of them were also due to sloppy play from the Bucs. We will take it however it is delivered, even on a silver platter if our opponent is kind enough. Even better is that three of these plays occurred in the 3rd quarter, the quarter that seems to give the Panthers fits all season...but not on this day!
Play #5 - On the Bucs first play offensive play from scrimmage RB Legarette Blount doesn't get the hand off cleanly and fumbles it at the line of scrimmage. LB James Anderson, who seems to be Mr. Johnny on the Spot for the Panthers in 2011 recovers the ball leading to a FG and an early 10 point Panther lead.
Play #4 - With 11:11 left in the 4th quarter the Bucs had just scored a TD and were attempting a 2 point conversion to pull within 30 points (loved typing that). Enter the Kraken...DE Greg Hardy blows off the left edge and sacks Josh Freeman to save two points and keep the lead at a comfortable 32 points.
Play #3 - Though this is actually a special teams play I had to include it. The last play of the 3rd quarter was a kick off after Cam Newton's 49 yard dagger to the Bucs heart. KR Sammie Stroughter takes the kick five yards deep and elects to take it out...bad decision. LB Jason Williams is coming bonsai down the field and dials in on Stroughter full steam at the 15 yard line and drills him. The ball pops out and CB Josh Thomas is there for the recovery. Two plays later Newton hits Shockey for a TD to extend the lead.
Play #2 - With 7:16 left in the 3rd quarter, the Bucs try some trickery themselves with a version of the flea flicker that culminates in a pass back over the field to TE Kellen Winslow. The play works well until 20 yards down field Winslow tries to leap over CB Chris Gamble but is hit by LB Dan Connor who puts his head on the ball and forces the fumble. DT Andre Neblett, who was hustling down the field on the play recovers the fumble to stop the Bucs drive in the Panther red zone.
Play #1 - With the Bucs getting the kick off to start the 3rd quarter and the Panthers nervously protecting a 20-10 halftime lead Freeman tries to hit TE Winslow down the middle of the field with a touch pass over the LB and between the deep coverage. The only problem is that LB was James Anderson who gets his paw on the ball and deflects it right too recently signed S Jonathan Nelson. Nelson collects the gift and returns it 20 yards to the Bucs 32 yard line. Three plays later DeAngelo Williams scores on a 22 yard HB pitch and the Panthers 3rd quarter jinx is broken and the lead is now 17 points...they never looked back.
So there are the top 5 defensive plays of the week!