PLAYOFF BOUND!

You can stop rubbing your eyes.  Believe it.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

The Bucs trounced the Lions on Saturday, 47-7.  That clinches Tampa Bay’s first postseason berth since the Jon Gruden days.

The Buccaneers were clicking on all cylinders in this one.  So much for those ridiculously slow starts.  The Bucs came out swinging, and buried Detroit early and often.  The Lions were undermanned – and were missing several coaches due to COVID – but that was an impressive performance by TB nonetheless.

This has been a long time coming for the entire franchise.  Mike Evans, Lavonte David and William Gholston, among others, will be getting their first taste of the postseason.

And what about us, the diehard fans?  You know, the ones who’ve been on board all along, long before some guy named Brady joined the party.  We’ve suffered mightily for more than a decade.  The Cleveland Browns have the longest playoff drought in the NFL.  The Bucs had the second-longest, until now.

So, what’s next?  Well, there’s one more regular-season game to go, against Atlanta at Ray-Jay.  If the Bucs win, they would wrap up the #5 seed, and would play the NFC East Champion.  If the Bucs end up with the #6 seed, who knows who they’ll play.  There’s still a lot to be determined in the NFC, including the #1 seed, who gets a bye.

But fans, our boys are in.  This season is already a success, in my opinion.  Let’s see if the Bucs can stay hot, and go all the way.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

At 8-5, Bucs Closing in on Playoff Berth

Hello all.  I’m back to blogging after a few weeks off – a break that had nothing to do with the rough stretch the Buccaneers went through in November.  Sometimes, you just need to pause what you’re doing, and that’s just what I did.

Now, back to the matter at hand.  The Bucs are now 8-5.  They beat the Vikings yesterday in a game they absolutely couldn’t afford to lose.  Tampa Bay now owns the tiebreaker over Minnesota if it comes down to that.

As I reflect on this game, did the Bucs win, or did the Vikings self-destruct.  I think it was a little of both.  The biggest headline was Minnesota kicker Dan Bailey missing four kicks that cost his team ten points.  The Bucs were fortunate to avoid being penalized twice for personal fouls, and they were lucky to benefit from a pass interference penalty on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half (how often do you see a flag thrown on one of those?)  Anyway, Tampa Bay got a bonus three points as a result.

Tom Brady had an average day.  He hit Scotty Miller on a beautiful deep ball for a touchdown, but he also missed at least two other wide-open receivers downfield.  And I don’t want to hear any more about “they haven’t had enough time together to build chemistry.”  We’re 13 games into the season!

Defensively, they sacked Kirk Cousins six times.  All of them were huge, because they had no answer for Dalvin Cook, especially in the first half.  It was yet another slow start where it looked like the Bucs might be in for a long afternoon.  But they were fortunate that Bailey left points on the field with those missed kicks.  But never complain about a win in the NFL.  Whether it’s beautiful or ugly, you take it.

So now, the Bucs have three games left, all of them against teams with losing records: two against Atlanta and a trip to Detroit.  Keep winning, and we’ll be celebrating a playoff spot for the first time in 13 years.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

4 in a Row! Bucs Roll Past Lions

Don’t look now, but the Buccaneers are on a four-game winning streak.  And they’re back to .500.  They won again today, beating the Lions in Detroit, 38-17.

The story of this one was Jameis Winston.  After throwing yet another interception on the opening drive of the game, he lit up the Lions defense the rest of the way.  He threw for 456 yards and four touchdowns.  He is the first player in NFL history to throw for over 450 yards in back-to-back games.

And he did it without the injured Mike Evans.  And the other star receiver – Chris Godwin – left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury.  But Breshad Perriman stepped up with three TD’s today.  This is a guy who I wondered what the heck he was doing on the field early in the season.  But expect him to see a lot more action in the final two games with Evans and Godwin out.

But back to Winston for a moment.  He’s playing for his job.  And by winning four straight and five of the last six, he’s making the case for the Bucs keeping him beyond 2019, even with all those turnovers. And it’s even more impressive, considering the Bucs haven’t been able to run the ball. 

The Bucs have a chance to play spoiler next week against the Texans.  A reminder: that game is on Saturday afternoon, and will be televised on NFL Network.

Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Suh is the Newest Buccaneer

The Bucs hope they’ve found Gerald McCoy’s replacement.

 

On Thursday, they officially signed Ndamukong Suh. This had been reported by various outlets a couple of days ago, but I like to wait until things like this are confirmed (must be my TV news background.)

 

Suh has been around the league for a while. Last year, he was on a Rams team that went to the Super Bowl. He spent the early part of his career in Detroit.

 

This guy is solid; there’s no doubt about that. But he also comes with baggage – i.e. doing things like stepping on a player during a game. If he can get rid of that stuff, then okay. At the very list, he needs to put numbers similar those put up by McCoy did.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

After 3 Preseason Games, I Like What I See

It looks like the Bucs are ready to get this party started.

 

There was a lot to like in the so-called “dress rehearsal” preseason game Friday night against the Lions.  Tampa Bay lost, but as usual in preseason, ignore the final score.  The Buccaneers, for the most part, kicked the Lions’ butts while the starters for both teams were in there.

 

Peyton Barber is going to be the starting running back on opening day in the Superdome.  There’s no doubt about that.  He’s looked impressive through three games, while Ronald Jones has struggled.  Jones did catch a nice deep ball down the left sideline, but he’s largely been ineffective running the ball.

 

There’s been more good than bad from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will start the season while Jameis Winston serves his suspension.  Jameis has also played well so far.  Heck, the same can be said of third-stringer Ryan Griffin.

 

Special teams?  Adam Humphries, are you serious?  I know it wasn’t the 2013 Iron Bowl, but it’s rare for any Buccaneers to return any kick for a touchdown under any circumstances.

 

If I do have a question mark, it’s the defense (shocking!)  Yes, I know there are a lot of injuries, including first-round pick Vita Vea.  But I get the impression that the overhauled defensive line isn’t really gelling together yet.  And then there’s the secondary, which is still giving up big plays (but not a lot of points.)  Dirk Koetter says Chris Conte is better than you think.  Hey coach: we the fans beg to differ.

 

I know it’s hard to get excited over games that don’t count.  But the Bucs sure look like a much better team than the one that went 5-11 a year ago.  A note to my readers: I will not be blogging about the final preseason game unless there’s a significant development.  The fourth exhibition game is the least meaningful of them all.  Wake me up in two weeks in New Orleans.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

A Disappointing, Chilly Day at Ray-Jay

On Sunday, I saw in person what I’ve been listening to on the internet and seeing on social media all season long: the Bucs are a bad team.  On Buccaneer Bri’s annual trip to Ray-Jay, the Bucs lost to the Lions, 24-21, on a field goal in the closing seconds.  But honestly, it shouldn’t have even been that close.

 

I saw with my own two eyes all of the reasons the Buccaneers are now 4-9.  They had five turnovers.  The tackling was terrible.  They have no pass rush.  None.  They never laid a finger on Matthew Stafford.  Heck, by my unofficial count, they only chased after him once….in the entire game…and that one play ended with a roughing the passer penalty.  The play-calling was questionable at times, as was the use of timeouts at the end of the game.

 

And yet, there they were, rallying from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

 

Do you think Mike Smith’s defense could do the job from there?  (insert sarcastic laugh here.)

 

Instead of me rambling on about how Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith are doomed after the season, I will dedicate the rest of this article to my personal Ray-Jay experience, since I only get down there once a year.

 

It was chilly.  No, really.  I brought my jacket and wore jeans, and I needed both.  The two ladies who came to the game with me were shivering as well as the game went on.  This was, by far, the coldest game I’ve ever been to in Tampa.  But it beat the snow that fell back home while I was gone.

 

I know Tampa always draws a lot of visiting team’s fans.  But geez, did the entire state of Michigan fly in for this game?  It felt like there were as many Lions’ fans there as Bucs’ fans.  Detroit fans deserve praise for traveling en masse to support their team.  But it’s depressing for Tampa Bay fans like me, and ownership needs to do something to change that.

 

This was also my first time sitting in the upper deck.  I don’t think I will do it again, and it had nothing to do with how far away I was from the action.  There was absolutely no vibe upstairs.  It was like being in a library for much of the game.  I didn’t feel like I was part of the festivities at all.  Oh well, I chose to sit upstairs because the area where I usually sit was just too expensive.  From now on, I think I will just spend the extra bucks and go back down to the lower bowl.

 

There was a nice couple from Detroit sitting behind us.  They left before halftime, after Stafford threw his second pick.  The guy said, “same old Lions!”  I overheard the lady he was with talk about going to the movies.  I hope they made it in time, if that’s in fact where they ended up.  For all I know, they may just have been sick of me yelling and trying to the enjoy the game in a morgue-like atmosphere, and they have just moved to another section.  Where they ended up is a question I will likely never know the answer to.

 

So, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.  The Bucs have three more games left – all of them against division opponents – and in case you haven’t noticed, the rest of the division is really, really good.  I can easily see the Bucs finishing 4-12.  They’re on Monday Night Football next week against Atlanta.  Jon Gruden will be calling the game, then he’ll be honored at halftime.  If the ceremony is streamed live someplace, that may very well be the best part of the night.

 

Photo Courtesy: Me

Overtime Letdown: Bucs Lose…Again

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

 

This time, the Buccaneers waited until overtime for the pain and agony to become official: a 26-20 loss to the Packers in Green Bay.  Let me count the ways:

 

Jameis Winston gift-wrapped a Green Bay touchdown when he fumbled the ball right into the arms of Dean Lowry, who took it to the house.  Winston almost cost the Bucs more points in the fourth quarter due to miscommunication on a snap in the red zone.  He’s lucky he recovered the fumble, and ended up throwing his second TD pass of the game to Cameron Brate, which put Tampa Bay in the lead with about six minutes to go.

 

That brings me to my next point: Mike Smith’s joke of a defense couldn’t hold on to that slender lead late in the fourth.  The Packers tied it with a field goal, then won it on the first possession of overtime.  And on that drive, did you happen to notice the shoddy tackling?  Someone remind me again why Smith is still on the staff.

 

Of course, after the Green Bay field goal made it 20-20 with about two minutes to go, Jameis and company got the ball back, with a chance to go down the field and win the game.  They didn’t even come close.

 

While the Buccaneers have solved their field goal kicking situation, they had a punt blocked that led to a Packers’ touchdown.  Another mistake that you cannot make in any game, much less this one.

 

And then there were all of the penalties, and all of the sacks – seven of them in all – that cost the Bucs big-time.  The pass protection was a mess, yet they managed to have a nice game on the ground courtesy of Peyton Barber.  Go figure.

 

Last year, the Bucs finished 9-7.  This loss means they will not match their win total of last year.  It’s just one more sign of what a disappointment this season has been.

 

Next week, they’ll host the Lions and Ray-Jay.  Buccaneer Bri will be making his annual trip down south for that one.  So be on the lookout for some photos, videos and hopefully other fun stuff next Monday.

 

Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

 

Bucs Embarrassed in Detroit: No Surprise There

From a Tampa Bay fan’s perspective, there was absolutely nothing about this game that surprised me.

Josh McCown still stinks. The offensive line is still horrible. The Bucs still have no running game. Mike Evans continues to impress despite the lousy outcome. You get the idea. The Buccaneers got blown out by the Lions at Ford Field, 34-17.

“McClown” completed less than half of his passes. He was sacked six times, and that number could’ve very easily been higher. One of his two interceptions came in the end zone (Tampa Bay did get it right back when the Lions fumbled on the return.) A lot of fans including myself would love to see him benched for the remainder of the year, but if it hasn’t happened by now…

The third Bucs turnover came on a bad snap by Evan Dietrich-Smith. Seriously, how many times have we seen that this year?  And this one wasn’t even in a shotgun formation.

Doug Martin only had 22 yards rushing against a very good Detroit rush defense. I mention this, because I saw tweets that Martin did not talk to the media after the game. Not sure if this is true or not, but it bears watching.

233 yards of total offense is not going to get it done. Think of how many times the Bucs have had less than 300 in a game this year.

The defense, after showing some improvement over the past few games, looked like its old self. Yeah, Calvin Johnson is really good.

All in all, this was simply a case of a very good team beating up on a very bad team. It would’ve been nothing short of a miracle if the Bucs had won this game.

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com

 

The Bucs’ 2014 Schedule

logo
The 2014 regular-season schedule was released Wednesday night. It’s time to start planning those road trips – especially for people like me who don’t live in Tampa.

Without further ado, here it is:

Sun 9/7              CAROLINA                  4:25pm
Sun 9/14            ST. LOUIS                    1:00pm
Thu 9/18            @ Atlanta                     8:25pm
Sun 9/28           @ Pittsburgh                1:00pm
Sun 10/05         @ New Orleans            1:00pm
Sun 10/12          BALTIMORE               1:00pm
Sun 10/19          BYE
Sun 10/26         MINNESOTA               1:00pm
Sun 11/2            @ Cleveland                  1:00pm
Sun 11/9            ATLANTA                      1:00pm
Sun 11/16          @ Washington              1:00pm
Sun 11/23          @ Chicago                     1:00pm
Sun 11/30          CINCINNATI               1:00pm
Sun 12/7            @ Detroit                      1:00pm
Sun 12/14          @ Carolina                    1:00pm
Sun 12/21          GREEN BAY                 1:00pm
Sun 12/28         NEW ORLEANS           1:00pm

There are a lot of mini-home stands and road trips: two games here, three games there, etc. Nov. 23 marks Lovie Smith’s return to Chicago. As we all know, what looks like an uneventful game late in the season right now, can end up being a big game (and vice versa.)

Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com