Catching Up With the Bucs

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted an update here, so consider this an opportunity to get all caught up.

Flash back to October 25.  The Bucs came up with a big win against the Las Vegas Raiders.  I was out in Vegas watching the game with a group of fans called the Buccaholics.  I had never hung out with them until then, and I can tell you, they are fantastic.  I went in there as a solo traveler from the Boston area, not knowing anyone else, and I felt like I had been a member of the Buccaholics family for 30 years.

Next week, it was Monday night football against the Giants.  The Buccaneers did not play well in the Meadowlands, but eked out a win by foiling a game-tying 2-point conversion.  Tampa Bay was sitting pretty at 6-2.

And then, last night happened.  The mother of all disasters, in a huge game against the division rival Saints.  Only one team showed up, and it wasn’t the Bucs.  Who deserves the blame for that debacle at Ray-Jay?  I say, the entire team: the players, the coaches, everyone.  And just like that, even with a positive 6-3 record, a lot of Bucs fans are ready to jump ship, just as they were after the opening game in the Superdome.

But I’m not walking the plank.  While winning the NFC South will be tougher, now that the Saints own the tiebreaker, it’s not out of the question.  That said, Tampa Bay’s cannot afford another repeat of what happened last night when they play in Carolina.  The play-calling needs to better.  The execution needs to be better.  The secondary has to, well, cover people.  And if they ever get to 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard-line, they’d better come away with seven points inside of zero.

Look – last night was as bad as it gets.  We diehard fans hope the Bucs got it all out of their system last night, and bounce back against the Panthers.  I hope Ali Marpet comes out of concussion protocol, too.  We need him to make Donovan Smith look like less of a sieve.

Until next week, go Bucs, and stay safe.  And to the Buccaholics: I hope I get to see you again very, very soon.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Undisciplined Bucs Lose to Bears; Vea Out for the Season

This was another one of those game where it’s so frustrating being a Bucs fan.

If I had to pick one word to sum up the Buccaneer’s 20-19 loss to the Bears, it would be “undisciplined.”  That’s not a new word, of course, and it’s been used over and over to describe Tampa Bay over the years.

Eleven penalties for 109 yards is inexcusable.  And while you can criticize the refs for a couple of them – the personal foul call on Shaq Barrett comes to mind – the main takeaway from this game was all the yellow flags thrown against the Buccaneers.  Yes, Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs had rough nights against a very good Chicago defense.  But still.

And what about the play-calling?  Don’t get me started on the drive when the Bucs were up by a point, went three-and-out, and took less than 20 seconds off the clock.  And no, Mr. Brady, you did not have one more down on that final drive.

And if that’s not bad enough, it appears the Bucs have lost Vita Vea for the rest of the season with a broken leg.  That is a huge loss for a defense that’s been outstanding against the run.

This was a winnable game.  The Bucs didn’t win it.  And the Packers come to town next Sunday.  Oh, boy.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

Bucs Fall to Saints in Brady’s Debut

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that Tom Brady wasn’t the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.  If you watched Sunday’s game against the Saints, you’d think were watching….a typical Bucs game.  Tampa Bay fell to New Orleans, 34-23.

This was a game where, yet again, the Bucs made too many mistakes to overcome.  But since this was Brady’s Tampa Bay debut, all of the spotlight was shining on him.  His first drive was great, capped off by a QB sneak into the end zone that Patriots fans saw so many times.

After that?  My goodness.

Brady threw two interceptions in this one.  The first was a miscommunication with Mike Evans.  The second was a bad throw that resulted in a pick-six for the Saints.  Brady looked out of sync with his receivers for much of the game.  I think that will improve as he gets more reps with them.

But before everyone hangs Brady out to dry, this was a team loss.  I wrote in my season preview about my chief concerns: the running game, the offensive line, the young secondary and the kicking game.  Well, the running game was a struggle yet again.  The pass protection was not good at all (why is Donovan Smith still our left tackle?)  The secondary actually played pretty well until Jamel Dean got burned in the fourth quarter.  And the kicking game is still a mess: new kicker Ryan Succop had a field goal blocked.  Another special teams mistake: the what-were-they-thinking moment on that botched kickoff in the fourth quarter that resulted in another turnover.

Another problem: penalties.  The Bucs were the most penalized team in the league last year.  On Sunday, they were penalized nine times for 103 yards.  Why can’t this team ever be disciplined, regardless of who’s coaching them?

Rob Gronkowski wasn’t a factor. Evans wasn’t a factor, though his hamstring injury may have had something to do with that.  I hardly heard LeSean McCoy or Cameron Brate’s names mentioned.

This was just one game, against one of the best teams in the NFL.  There is still time to make adjustments and turn this thing around.  Hopefully they can, or we’re looking at another season of the same ol’ Bucs.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020 Season Preview

Let’s get this party started.

I admit: until this week, I really couldn’t get excited about the start of football because of everything that’s going on in the country right now.  But with the first game on tap for tonight, it’s time for me to give my overview of the 2020 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Why I’m so excited:

We have some guy named Tom Brady at quarterback, who’s won six Super Bowls.  Heck, the whole offense is loaded.  Brady lured Rob Gronkowski out of retirement.  Throw in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and that’s one heck of a passing attack.

The defensive line – best in the NFL against the run last year – remains mostly intact, though Carl Nassib is no longer in Tampa.  Devin White and Lavonte David are solid linebackers.

The Bucs have five primetime games.  Thanks, Brady.  Here in the greater Boston area, you’d expect many of the non-national games are going to be televised around here when they’re not opposite the Patriots playing at home.

What concerns me, for now:

The Bucs haven’t had much of a running game to speak of over the past several years.  Ronald Jones is the starter, according to Bruce Arians.  LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette have been added to the mix.  But I want to see an actual running attack before I take this off the list of “concerns.”

Can the offensive line protect Brady, especially Donovan Smith at left tackle?  First-round pick Tristan Wirfs will start the year at right tackle.  Could he move over to protect Brady’s blind side if need be?  Sure.  He played left tackle at Iowa.  But Smith is the one I’m most worried about.

The secondary is very young.  While they showed improvement in the second half of the year – especially after getting rid of Vernon Hargreaves – this is the part of the defense that I think opposing quarterbacks will pick on the most.

The kicking game is ALWAYS a concern.  Matt Gay is out after just one year.  Ryan Succop is now our kicker.  The Bucs always seem to lose about two games a year due to missed field goals or PATs.  Can Succop please find a way to make his kicks?

It’s going to be a fun ride, ladies and gentleman.  The season begins on Sunday with a big one against the Saints.  I’ll preview that matchup in the next couple of days.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

The Bucs are Back to Work

It’s time to get fired up for another season (hopefully) of Tampa Bay Buccaneers football.

The Bucs reported to training camp this week, as they start getting ready for the season opener in New Orleans on September 13.  In case you haven’t heard, the entire preseason has been canceled.  So, there won’t be any “dress rehearsal” during the third preseason game or anything like that.  Nope – on 9/13, it’s Bucs/Saints in the Superdome.

The Bucs have already signed all of their draft picks.  That is good news.

As always, there are a lot of questions heading into the 2020 campaign.  And the biggest one has nothing to do their superstar quarterback, Tom Brady, who will soon turn 43.  The biggest question right now is: will there even be a season because of the pandemic?  For now, it’s game on.  But as we’ve seen over the past six months, things can change on a dime.  Just look at what’s happening with Major League Baseball, in particular, the Miami Marlins.  A bunch of them got Covid, and games have already been postponed.  I hope that doesn’t happen in the NFL, but it certainly could.  Some players have already said they will opt out.  Bucs’ tackle Donovan Smith has hinted he might do that, though he has not made an official decision.

Anticipation is so high with this team with the additions of Brady and Gronk.  And yet, because of the pandemic, it appears only a fraction of Ray-Jay will be full for home games.  I usually head south for a game every year.  The chances of that happening are slim in 2020. 

But for now, let’s think positive, stay safe, and hope that the Bucs can become the first team to play (and win) a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers