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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Bucs’ Underwood working to show he belongs

DETROIT — If Donald Penn has his way, Tiquan Underwood’s days of grappling with the NFL turnstile are over.

Underwood posted his first career 100-yard day as a pro Sunday, catching a pair of touchdown passes from rookie Mike Glennon in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 24-21 triumph against the Lions.

It’s been a long, arduous road for the former Rutgers standout, who is with his third NFL club in five years, still trying to prove he belongs in the pros.

“It seems like Tiquan’s had his back against the wall his whole career,’’ said Penn, who made his 103rd consecutive start at left tackle for the Bucs. “He got cut here after training camp, then we brought him back. He’s playing even better than last year and I think he’s got himself a home here.’’

With the Lions focused on containing Vincent Jackson, Underwood caught three passes for 108 yards, including scoring receptions of 7 and 85 yards.

“I never gave up on God and the talent he blessed me with,’’ said Underwood, who was released Sept. 1 and re-signed a month later. “No matter what, this team continues to fight.’’

Midway through the second quarter, Glennon faked a handoff and found Underwood streaking past Rashean Mathis on a slant from 7 yards out for a 10-7 advantage.

Underwood applied the backbreaker two plays into the fourth quarter when he beat cornerback Chris Houston down the middle and stunned the crowd by racing into the end zone to complete an 85-yard touchdown, the fourth-longest pass play in Bucs history.

“They gave us the exact look that we wanted,’’ Glennon said. “Tiquan just did a great job of getting open.’’

And when Underwood reached the end zone, he uncorked a funky dance move he had worked on with some former Rutgers teammates.

“We call it ‘The Crank’ and we’ve been doing it since college,’’ Underwood said. “We got the coverage we were looking for and Mike put it right there. Hat’s off to Mike Glennon. He’s putting in the time that quarterbacks are supposed to put in — and it shows. And our offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan, puts together some great plans.’’

Underwood entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick by the Jaguars in 2009. After two years in Jacksonville, he spent the 2011 season as a backup in New England before the Bucs signed him as a free agent the following spring.

Reuniting with his college coach, Greg Schiano, Underwood caught 28 passes last year but failed to make the Tampa Bay roster coming out of training camp this summer.

“I’m so proud of the way Tiquan has shown how tough he is,’’ Penn said. “He’s been bounced around, but he has landed on his feet and he helped us win a football game today.’’

After the bitter setback, Lions coach Jim Schwartz was in no mood to dissect Underwood’s 85-yard scoring catch.

“I don’t talk about the breakdown,’’ he said. “The breakdown was we gave up a long touchdown pass. We don’t assign blame. The blame is on the entire defense.’’

Underwood didn’t care who was at fault.

“I am just fortunate to have the opportunity to play for this organization again,’’ he said. “Mike threw a great pass and from there, it was all she wrote. I caught it and just tried to run away.’’

Then he turned The Crank.

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