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!

What a Fantastic…Escape!

Relax – the Buccaneers had this one all the way.

Right.

After blowing a 21-point lead in the second half, the Bucs found a way to pull out a thrilling victory over the Bills in overtime, 33-27.  Tom Brady found Breshad Perriman for the game-winning TD.

In the first half, Tampa Bay looked unstoppable.  In the second half, the Bucs looked extremely beatable.  I knew the game wasn’t over when it was 24-3, or even 27-10 in the fourth quarter.  I’ve seen this movie before over the past 35 years.  Buffalo is a good team, and proved it tonight.

This is yet another game that, pre-Brady, the Bucs would’ve lost.  And you could argue they should’ve been defeated after blowing that big lead.  Great teams play 60 minutes, not 35ish.  But regardless, they’re 10-3, and on the brink of clinching the NFC South.

Part of Brady’s big day was touchdown pass #700 of his career, and it was the game-winner.  Leonard Fournette also had a great game – rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Next week, the Bucs host the Saints on Sunday night.  This is my annual Tampa trip game.  I can’t wait to head south in six days.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

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

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Win Over the Dolphins

Here are some quick takeaways on the Buccaneers’ 45-17 win over the Dolphins on Sunday at Ray-Jay.

Tom Brady went two straight games without throwing a touchdown pass.  So much for that streak.  TB12 threw five TD passes against Miami – two to Mike Evans, two to Antonio Brown, and one to Giovani Bernard.  And he didn’t throw an interception.  It’s just amazing how he’s still putting up these numbers at age 44.  Brady threw for 411 yards in this one.  You think he’s happy to have the Pats’ game behind him?

Tampa Bay is still struggling to defend the pass.  It’s no wonder teams are throwing a lot more than running.  Yes, injuries in the secondary are a problem.  But part of it is also Todd Bowles’ unit allowing receivers to run wide open routes.  Thankfully the Bucs clamped down on the Dolphins in the second half, because the first half was more of what we’ve seen all year.

Oh, and Lavonte David is the latest injured Buccaneer.  Let’s hope his injury is not too serious.

And yet, for all of the talk about the bad pass defense, the Bucs are still 4-1.  They’ll face the Eagles on Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Heading West

Hello all. A quick note to my readers:

I will not be writing about the Bucs/Rams game after it’s over on Sunday because, I’ll be there. Yes, I’m taking in two Buccaneers’ games in-person this year: Sunday in L.A. and mid-December against the Saints in Tampa. Anyway, Sunday’s game is part of a much-needed vacation, so I’ll be quiet here for the next week and a half or so. I will resume coverage after Tampa Bay’s game against the Patriots.

Until then, be well, stay safe, and go Bucs.

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Season Opener

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