Heading South

It’s that time of the season – the time when I make my annual pilgrimage to Tampa to take in a Bucs’ game at Ray-Jay.

Yes, it’s time to get out of the New England winter (though it’s not too bad up here on this day) and soak in the warmth of Florida. I’ll be upper deck, cheering on the Buccaneers against the division-rival Saints. If Tampa Bay wins, they’ll clinch the NFC South for the first time since 2007.

Hopefully, the game goes off as scheduled. The NFL postponed several games today because of COVID.

I’ll be writing about my experience when I return home late Monday.

Go Bucs!

Keep Stacking Those W’s! Bucs Roll in Atlanta

The Buccaneers are closing in on their first NFC South title in 14 years.  It could happen as early as next Sunday if lot of things happen.

The Bucs won their third straight today, beating the Falcons in Atlanta, 30-17.  And just think: if not for that awful pick-six at the end of the first half, it would’ve been an even bigger blowout.

I choose to spotlight Chris Godwin for good reason.  He caught 15 passes in this game – 15! – for 143 yards.  The 15 catches are a new team record for most receptions in a single game.  He has 82 receptions so far, and is approaching 1,000 yards.  And there are still five games to go.

Gronk had two more “tuddies” as he calls them.  How great is it to have him back?

Yes, the pass defense still has issues.  They’re offense is so hot that it may not be noticeable to the casual fan.  But we diehards sure notice it.

The Bucs are 9-3.  They’ve won 17 of their last 20 games.  Their next one is a matchup that a lot of people circled when the schedule first came out.  The Bills visit Ray-Jay.  Super Bowl preview?  We’ll see.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Get a Big Road Win In Indy

If the Buccaneers end up making another deep playoff run this season, I want you all to remember this game as the one that stood out.

The Bucs came from behind in the second half and picked up a gutsy, 38-31 win over the previously red-hot Colts in Indianapolis.  The offensive star of the game was Leonard Fournette.  He had four touchdowns, including the game-winner with 20 seconds remaining.

Even after that last score, well, these are the Bucs.  So naturally, the Colts nearly ran back the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.  But thankfully, Pierre Desir picked off Carson Wentz near the goal line as time expired.

This was not an A-plus performance overall by any means.  The Bucs committed two more turnovers and seemed to let Indy convert 3rd-and-long at will.  But the defense had five takeaways.  The Buccaneers only had four penalties, which is an improvement.  This was another one of those games that the ‘old’ Bucs would’ve found a way to lose.  Instead, it was a big road win against a good Colts team.

It gets better.  The Saints and Panthers both lost this week.  The Buccaneers now have a 3-game lead in the NFC South.  The Falcons are up next.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The State of the Bucs on Thanksgiving

On this Thanksgiving, the Buccaneers have a lot to be thankful for.  For starters, they’re atop the standings in the NFC South.

On Monday night, the blew out the Giants, 30-10, to improve to 7-3.  It wasn’t even close.  After losing two straight games – playing poorly in both – it was nice to see the Tampa Bay dominate an opponent it was supposed to do just that to.

So, let’s talk about the playoff picture for a moment.  The Bucs have a two-game lead in the division.  They have seven games left, including four divisional games.  Their next game in Indy won’t be easy; did you see what the Colts did to Buffalo last week?  Anyway, the Bucs need to keep playing like they did on Monday night.  They got Rob Gronkowski and Sean Murphy-Bunting back, and Carlton Davis is close to returning.  Vita Vea’s injury at the end of the Washington debacle doesn’t seem to be as serious as first though.  But limiting penalties and turnovers will be key in every single game from here on out.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A BAD Loss For the Bucs

Remember what happened before the Bucs even ran a play on offense?  They were called for a false start.  That should’ve been a sign that this was not going to be a good day.

Tampa Bay was upset by Washington, 29-19.  The blame goes on the usual culprits: turnovers and penalties.  Tom Brady threw two more interceptions; one bounced right off his receiver’s hands, the other is squarely on TB12.  But that’s not all: Ryan Succop missed an extra point in the fourth quarter that would’ve made it a 3-point game.  But in the end, it didn’t matter, because when the Bucs’ defense needed a stop, they couldn’t get off the field.  Washington marched 80 yards for a clinching score, taking more than ten minutes off the clock.

Washington came into this game with the worst pass defense in the NFL.  The Bucs made them look like one of the best.

So, the Buccaneers have lost two straight, yet remarkably are still in first place in the NFC South (thank you, Tennessee.)  Still, they’ve got to be more disciplined.  And that starts with you, Coach Arians.  Yes, I know there are injuries.  But other players need to step up, and over the last two games, they haven’t.  Sunday’s loss was arguably the worst since that game in Chicago last year.

Photo courtesy: Washington Football Team

Buccaneers Blow Out the Bears

Against the Bears, the Bucs didn’t have Rob Gronkowski.  Or Antonio Brown.  Or Lavonte David.  Or Richard Sherman.

No problem.

The Buccaneers demolished Chicago, 38-3.  This was blowout city from the get-go.  Tom Brady threw four more touchdown passes – three of them to Mike Evans.  Tampa Bay rushed for 182 yards, including a TD run by Leonard Fournette.  They forced five turnovers, and held the Bears to just a field goal.

Impressive.  There’s not much more to say.

The Bucs are now 6-1 for the first time ever.  They’re in first place in the NFC South.  They play the Saints next week in New Orleans.  This is a big, big game coming up.  If the Bucs want to the win the NFC South, the Saints are the team they have to get by.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Win Over the Eagles

Here are my takeaways from the Bucs’ 28-22 win over the Eagles on Thursday night.

“Playoff Lenny” is coming back into postseason form.  Leonard Fournette had his second big game in a row.  He had 127 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.  He is the #1 running back without question right now, to go along with Tampa Bay’s tremendous passing attack.  Tom Brady threw for nearly 300 yards, two TD’s and one INT.

What a defense the Buccaneers have.  They’re the best against the run, but worst against the pass.  Against Philly, the run defense was again terrific, save for a couple of runs late in the fourth quarter.  The pass defense held Jalen Hurts to just 115 yards through the air, but…

Can the Bucs please cut down on all those penalties?  Most of the Eagles’ “offense” last night came from pass interference calls against the Bucs’ banged-up secondary, which also lost Richard Sherman to injury.  Tampa Bay was penalized seven times for 120 yards.  A couple of times, a Buccaneer defensive lineman jumped offsides.  This has to stop.  And what was Bruce Arians thinking on that 4th down call in the 4th quarter?  It was a lousy play call, it didn’t work, and the Eagles cashed in to make it a one-score game.

And yet, the Bucs are 5-1.  This was another game where they did not turn the ball over.  They’ll host the Bears a week from Sunday.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Ready To Go For Two

It’s almost time for the Super Bowl champs to start their title defense.  Now that the preseason is in the books, we can really start looking forward to opening night – September 9th – at Ray-Jay against the Cowboys.

I hadn’t been intentionally ignoring training camp or the preseason.  There just wasn’t a whole lot going on, since the starters barely saw any playing time.  Last night’s final preseason game against the Texans was the only time we saw the starters see nearly a half’s worth of action.  And the Bucs looked like they’re ready for Dallas on both sides of the ball.

All 22 starters are returning from last year’s Super Bowl team.  As long as Tampa Bay stays healthy, the Buccaneers should be in contention.

As Bruce Arians said, they’re going for two.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Draft: Bucs Choose OLB Tryon

We’re not used to the Buccaneers picking at the very end of the first round of the draft.  But that’s what happens when you win the Super Bowl.  And with the 32nd overall pick, the Bucs went with a pass rusher: outside linebacker Joe Tryon from Washington.

Because I am not big on studying draftees, as usual, the first thing I said was “who’s he?”  Now that I’ve read up on him, I know that he didn’t play at all last year because he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.  In the previous year, he was a stud, with eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

I’m okay with this pick.  The Bucs brought back all of their stars from their Super Bowl team, so they’re adding depth on defense.  And if he can be as effective as fellow husky Vita Vea, then all the better.

Some Post-Super Bowl Thoughts on the Bucs

Now that I’ve had a chance to let the Super Bowl victory sink in, and watch the Buccaneers turn into big-time party animals during their boat parade, it’s time to hand out some postseason honors.  There is no rhyme or reason to any of these categories; I’m just going to do these at random.

Offensive MVP: Tom Brady

How could a 43-year old quarterback leave a team he’s been with for 20 years, join one that hadn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade, and end up winning a Super Bowl in his first year with his new team.  When your name is Tom Brady, of course.  Brady looks like he could play until he’s 50 (though he probably won’t.)  As you would expect with him, there was a lot more good than bad.  The number of turnovers from the quarterback position dropped off dramatically compared to his predecessor, Jameis Winston.  After going 7-5 through the first 12 games, Brady led the Bucs on an 8-game winning streak, and their second Super Bowl title.  And you’d be crazy to say he didn’t help others elevate their games.

Defensive MVP: Devin White

When the Bucs drafted this guy two years ago, we the fans said, ‘he’d better be the next Derrick Brooks.’  Well, he’s on his way.  White was sensational in his sophomore year in Tampa, leading the team in tackles.  And that’s with missing the regular season finale and the wild card game against Washington due to COVID.  White’s INT late in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl was the cherry on top of a tremendous season.  Or, maybe the official dessert was getting to ride his horse around Ray-Jay for a victory lap after the parade.  It was well-earned.

Best rookie: Tristan Wirfs

This is the guy the Buccaneers took in the first round of the 2020 draft.  What a pick this turned out to be.  One big question I had going into the season was, how well could the offensive line protect Tom Brady?  Wirfs got the job done, and then some.  You didn’t hear a lot about him during telecasts.  That’s because he was doing his job, and not committing penalties.  Antoine Winfield Jr. will get a lot of praise for his work in the secondary – and his little feud with Tyreek Hill – but I’m giving Wirfs the ever-so-slight edge.

Best special teams player: Ryan Succop

You all know how dreadful the Bucs’ kicking game has been over the years.  Succop is another player they picked up in free agency.  In 2020, he made 28-of-31 field goals during the regular season.  That’s 90%.  He was 9-for-9 in the playoffs.  He brought an enormous deal of comfort to a position that has been a weak spot for a long time.

There are many more honorable mentions, but these are just a few.  I’m sure you’re all aware of all the free agents the Bucs have to deal with.  But that’s for Jason Licht to handle in the coming months.  In the meantime, just keep reliving the moment, because who knows when this will ever happen again.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers