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

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

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ win over the Patriots

I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.  And for a change, I was right.

A lot of people felt Tom Brady was going to walk into Foxboro on Sunday night and light up the Patriots.  Not me.  I felt Bill Belichick would have something up his sleeve, and he did.  It took a “doink” on Nick Folk’s 56-yard field goal attempt that allowed Tampa Bay to secure the victory, 19-17.

For all the talk about Brady returning to Gillette Stadium, this wasn’t his best performance.  He missed some throws.  He had some drops.  But he did not turn the ball over, and led the Bucs into field goal range in the closing minutes.

Another bright spot: Leonard Fournette.  This was by far his best performance of the season, with 91 yards on the ground and 47 receiving.  It is for this reason that I’ve chosen to feature his photo this week.

As for the pass defense: yikes.  I figured this would be the Patriots’ best chance to win, and Mac Jones completed a high percentage of his passes.  No improvement in this unit at all.  And not only that, Carlton Davis got hurt again (on special teams no less) and Antoine Winfield Jr. suffered a concussion.  These Buccaneers are extremely banged up in the secondary, so expect Bruce Arians to address that this week.

All said, a gutsy win on the road.  And with the other three teams in the division losing, the Bucs moved into a first-place tie with the Panthers atop the NFC South.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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 Get First Win of 2020

It was far from perfect.  But a win is a win, especially against a division rival.

On Sunday, the Buccaneers beat the Panthers for their first win of the season, 31-17.

The defense forced four turnovers.  It doesn’t matter much that the Panthers had over 400 yards of offense when you take the ball away four times.  Even special teams were a bright spot, with Ryan Succop making all of his kicks, and the unit was not fooled by Carolina’s fake punt in the first half.

Tom Brady looked much better than he did last week.  He threw one touchdown and one interception, but it’s worth noting: he had three potential touchdowns dropped.  Scotty Miller and LeSean McCoy dropped passes in the end zone.  And Cyril Grayson (who?) was all alone down the left sideline – with nobody around him – and the ball bounced right off his helmet.  Chris Godwin did not play, so other guys had to step.  Mike Evans sure did; he caught Brady’s lone touchdown and had over 100 yards receiving.

Another star was new running back Leonard Fournette.  He had over 100 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, including a 46-yarder that iced the game late in the fourth quarter after Carolina made a game of it.

While the headlines may be saying, “Brady gets first win in Tampa,” this game was won by the defense.  The Bucs sit alone in second place, pending what happens to the Saints tomorrow night.  We’re on to Denver next Sunday.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

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