The biggest winners for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday were General Manager Mark Dominik and the front office.
If they haven't sent a thank you card to Bucs head coach Greg Schiano, they should be taken to the wood shed for an old-fashioned scolding.
Regardless, the best thing about Sunday's victory over the Carolina Panthers is that we received more evidence that the team belongs to Schiano (minus what's hidden in the Glazer family vault).
No one doubts the iron fist Schiano holds over his players, but there might have been some lingering thought that Dominik was still calling a lot of the shots as he did under deposed head coach Raheem Morris.
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Schiano has made it clear all the way back to the draft that he doesn't need a baby-sitter.
And the rookie head coach had to feel good that his top three draft choices had solid performances, albeit some expected rookie miscues by safety Mark Barron and linebacker Lavonte David.
Schiano appears to have the final say on acquisitions and isn't intimidated by the money Dominik is paying some players.
He was his usual stoic self this week, sticking to his mantra that ball security is the best way to get to
"It doesn't matter what plan we put together; you better hold on to the football," Schiano said. "Our line did have some good times; we also had some times where they (tackled us for a loss). We had some good times where we TFL's them on the front line, and there were times when they got downhill on us a little bit. There was give and take; that's the way it's going to be."
Schiano showed it's his way even if what he does might embarrass Dominik.
The most overpaid Buc is arguably linebacker Quincy Black, and he was on the field for all of 12 snaps against Carolina.
Schiano apparently took his Cam Newton approach to Black: The best way to deal with him is not to deal with him. In Schiano talk that means the more you keep Black off the field the fewer tackles he will miss.
You can argue it was in the Bucs scheme of things to use three safeties against Carolina, especially with the Panthers utilizing so many wide-receiver sets; but it meant more of Ronde Barber, Barron and Ahmad Black and less Quincy Black, who will earn $5.75 million this year.
Cornerback Eric Wright had what you might call a serviceable game, though certainly less than what you would expect from another high-priced Dominik acquisition. His main responsibility was Smith, who caught five of nine passes thrown his way for 69 yards. Smith's 48 cumulative yards after the catch was sixth best among all receivers in Week 1.
Schiano coveted Barron and fought to get him amid criticism no safety should go that high in the draft (7th overall pick).
Despite getting lost on some plays, the Alabama product made himself accountable and dispelled a notion he wasn't fast enough to handle pass coverage.
Barron fits the "Buccaneer Men" mold Schiano is trying to create. He is humble, but ferocious, as evidenced by the vicious hit he put on Smith.
"I had to let him know that I am for real. He was probably thinking I am just a rookie, and it's not going to happen like that," Barron said.
Give Schiano kudos for moving down to draft Martin, who more than earned his first NFL paycheck.
The thick, stocky running back took a lot of punishment and never flinched. He made 65 of his 95 yards after contact, broke four tackles and made a circus catch falling on his back against highly touted rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly.
The best thing about the Bucs is that they only had seven missed tackles.
Holding Carolina to 10 yards on the ground is not something to take lightly. Last year, the Panthers ranked third in rushing yardage per game (150.5) and first in yards per carry (5.4 avg), while the Bucs were last in run defense (156.1 avg) and 29th in yards per carry (5.0).
Can one man make all this difference?
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.