You can file this under the category of ‘it wasn’t perfect, but we’ll take it.’ The Buccaneers began their title defense with a 31-29 victory over the Cowboys. Ryan Succop kicked the game-winning field goal with :02 left. Here are some thoughts from the season opener:
Tom Brady still has it, at age 44. He threw for 379 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. One interception was a screen pass that Leonard Fournette dropped, and the other was a hail mary at the end of the half, which nearly turned into a disastrous return. But when Brady got the ball back with about 1:30 to play, needing a field goal to win, you had that expectation that he was going to get it done. And he did.
The secondary looked like the early 2020 Bucs instead of the team that finished on an 8-game winning streak. They were torched early and often by Dak Prescott, who had a big game. They lost Sean Murphy-Bunting to an elbow injury after he got burned for a touchdown. Then Dallas went after Jamel Dean with a great deal of success. The run defense looked strong, but the Cowboys mostly abandoned the running game.
Tampa Bay turned it over four times, and still won. That doesn’t happen very often. Two of them are blamed on Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones. Then there was Chris Godwin’s critical fumble down by the goal line. The Cowboys turned those miscues into points.
Penalties were a big problem. The Bucs had 11 of them for 106 yards. They need to clean that up. And they perhaps got lucky with a couple of non-calls: Lavonte David taking off his helmet after a play and Chris Godwin possibly getting away with a push-off on the game-winning drive. Dallas fans can complain about the latter all they want. I say: keep crying.
And how about Succop, who made all of his kicks? Remember, the Bucs’ kicking game was in shambles until he came last year. And with Greg Zuerlein missing two field goals and a PAT, this was also a key factor.
Up next: the Falcons come to Ray-Jay for the first divisional game of the season.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers