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

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

Bucs Go 11-5; Wild Card Game Up Next

If you had told me last winter that the Buccaneers would win eleven games in 2020, I wouldn’t have believed it.  Even after they picked up Tom Brady, I had the question: does he still have it at age 43?

Oh, yes, he does.  And the Bucs’ offense is on fire heading into next weekend’s wild card game in Washington.

Brady finished the regular season with 40 touchdown passes, including four more against the Falcons.  Chris Godwin is amazing.  Antonio Brown is heating up.  RoJo scored again.  But there is concern about Mike Evans, who injured his knee shortly after clinching his 7th straight 1,000-yard season.  He’s the first player in NFL history to begin a career like that.  But will the Bucs have him when they take on the Washington Saturday night?

Tampa Bay will be favored in the wild card round.  But even though the Bucs are playing a 7-9 team, don’t think for a moment that this will be a cakewalk.  Washington’s bread and butter is on defense, especially up front.  They are very, very good.  The Bucs’ offensive line needs to be stellar.

Tampa Bay has already snapped a 13-year playoff drought.  Now they’ll try to win a playoff game for the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl season.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

For the Bucs: Win and You’re In

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the brink of their first playoff berth in 13 years.  Let that sink in for a moment.

We are 14 games into the season.  They’ve won nine of them.  Sometimes you wonder how they win.  But ‘how’ doesn’t matter in the NFL.

You wonder how they can look absolutely dreadful – as they did for 30 minutes in Atlanta on Sunday – then suddenly turn on the jets in the second half.  That victory yesterday was arguably the most thrilling of the entire season given what’s on the line right now.  Imagine how dangerous the Bucs would be if they played EVERY game like they played the final 30 minutes in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

If the Bucs beat the Lions on Saturday, they’re in.  It’s as simple as that.  Knowing the Bucs, Detroit will probably be leading at halftime.  But as long as the Buccaneers end up with the W, it doesn’t matter what happens to the other teams that are chasing them.

One more win.  That’s all.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Fans: Stop Panicking (For Now)

Relax, everyone. Just relax.

 

What happened to the Buccaneers on Monday happens to every team in every sport at some point: players jumping ship for more money to play elsewhere.

 

For those who haven’t heard the news, here are the big headlines: Kwon Alexander struck gold in San Francisco. DeSean Jackson is going back to Philadelphia. And Adam Humphries is trading in red and pewter for Titan Blue.

 

Judging by my social media feeds, you’d think the world is about to end. Well, D-Jax turned back into a crybaby when he stopped getting the ball thrown to him. People loved Kwon’s passion but I read today that he missed a lot of tackles – a big problem for this defense over the past couple of years. Humphries is the loss that hurts me the most. Here’s a guy coming off a career year. But hey – money talks, and Tennessee offered more than Tampa. End of story.

 

Everyone is replaceable, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s see who the Bucs get in the draft, and more importantly, what Bruce Arians does with the players they acquire.

 

Photo courtesy: USA Today

Bucs Give Cowboys Early Christmas Present

‘Tis the season for giving.  So, it seems only appropriate that the Buccaneers gift-wrapped a win for the Cowboys today.

 

There were two key plays that stood out.  First, there was Jameis Winston getting blindsided, fumbling, and Jaylon Smith running it all the way back for a touchdown in the first quarter.  Then, it was another fumble by Winston in the third quarter on a botched handoff that Dallas recovered at the Tampa Bay 4.  Two plays later, the Cowboys were up by 14.

 

But there’s more.  On the ensuing drive, the Bucs had the ball for over nine minutes, ran 17 plays, and ended up with zero points.  On the second-to-last play of the drive, Tampa Bay had fourth down on the Cowboys 2-yard line, and got hit with a delay of game penalty.  How the heck does that happen in a situation like that?

 

These are the Bucs; anything’s possible.

 

Tampa Bay had nine penalties in all.  That’s coaching.  I’ve blasted previous head coaches for lack of discipline, and I won’t hold back this time, either.  I’m looking squarely at you, Dirk Koetter.  I hope you have only one game left as head coach in Tampa, despite an NFL Network report saying the opposite may be true.  Yes, Dallas was matching the Bucs penalty-for-penalty, but that’s not what I’m getting at.

 

And don’t give me any of this baloney about how the Bucs outgained the Cowboys in total yards.  You can put up 600 yards of offense every week, but it you keep self-destructing, it makes no difference.

 

So, we have ourselves another 10-loss season.  The season finale is next Sunday at Ray-Jay against the Falcons.  One more week of this torture.  Drink heavily, Bucs fans.

 

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Winning vs. Tanking For the Bucs

So yet again, the Buccaneers are playing out the string at the end of a season.  They will miss the playoffs for the 11th straight year.

 

This brings up the debate that I always see: should the team just keep losing to get a better draft pick, or try to (gasp) win these last two games for a sense of pride?

 

Look – it’s pretty much a given that Dirk Koetter will be fired at the end of the season.  GM Jason Licht may walk the plank with him.  Then there’s the future of Jameis Winston.  And today brought the news that DeSean Jackson sold his house in Tampa.  All of that said, will a couple of losses – and moving a couple of spots in next year’s draft – really have that much of a difference?

 

I say no.  I want to see wins.

 

I’m a diehard fan of this team.  I have been for over 30 years.  I want them to win every single week.  Nearly three weeks ago, I was at Ray-Jay to see Tampa Bay beat Carolina.  The Bucs haven’t won another game since.  They’ll be in Dallas on Sunday, then host Atlanta (another disappointing team) in the finale.  It’s a losing season no matter what.  But I’d rather have 7-9 instead of 5-11. 

 

So, my message to the Bucs is this: don’t just roll over and play dead in AT&T Stadium on Sunday.  There are fans who want you to ‘tank.’  I’m not one of them.  There will be plenty of time to talk about the future direction of this team.  That can wait.  Until then, a chance to play ‘spoiler’ against the Cowboys awaits.

 

Photo courtesy: USA Today

 

No Playoffs For the Bucs. Again.

OK, so the headline of this blog post isn’t exactly earth-shattering news.  But it didn’t become official until now.

 

With today’s loss to the Ravens in dreary Baltimore, there will be no playoffs for the Buccaneers for the eleventh consecutive year.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it wasn’t going to be a good day when, on the opening drive, Chris Godwin dropped a pass that could’ve gone the distance.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it wasn’t going to be a good day when they flubbed up the extra point on the game’s first touchdown.

 

Maybe we should’ve known it was going to be a good day when they recovered a muffed punt inside the Baltimore red zone, only to come away with three point.

 

The Bucs only scored three points in the second half.  This is a troubling trend over the past three games, starting with the Carolina game when they only scored seven points after halftime (and they won that game.)

 

Or maybe, just the thought of chasing Lamar Jackson and company all over the field was too much to comprehend.

 

No matter how you slice it, the final two games against the Cowboys and Falcons will amount to nothing more than ‘playing out the string,’ though Dallas will certainly have something to play for.

 

Dirk Koetter’s grave has been dug.  It’s only a matter of time before we put him in it.  Jason Licht may end up in the ground next to him.  We’ll see.

 

Photo Courtesy: Baltimore Ravens

Round 2 vs. Saints: Not This Time

Well, you can drop all that talk of, “what if the Bucs run the table and make the playoffs…”

 

There was no repeat of the magic in the Superdome from the opener.  Tampa Bay played well in the first half against New Orleans.  But then, just like last week when I was at Ray-Jay, the offense went to bed in the second half (for what it’s worth, I also went to bed before the Saints mounted their comeback, but anyway…)

 

The game turned in the third quarter when the Saints blocked a punt, and turned it into the go-ahead touchdown.  New Orleans scored 25 straight points.  The Bucs couldn’t muster any offense after the Saints took the lead.  Most of the yards they got were in “garbage time” at the very end.

 

The end result: Saints 28, Bucs 14.

 

Cairo Santos missed two field goals.  He hadn’t missed since joining the Bucs a fee weeks ago.  Yes, we’re back to this problem again.

 

The Buccaneers had 10 penalties in this game.  That, too, is a problem.  So is the offensive line and the lack of running game.  That’s been an issue all year.

 

Well, it was a fun two-game streak while it lasted.  The best the Bucs can do now is finish at .500, and that would mean beating Baltimore, Dallas and Atlanta.  Dirk Koetter’s grave is already dug.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times