Wow! Gronk Follows Brady to Tampa Bay

So, let me get this straight: not only is Brady a Buccaneer, but so is Gronk.

Wow.

Yes, the Bucs made it official Tuesday night what had been reported earlier in the day: they traded a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft in exchange for former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Gronk retired from the NFL last year and went on to pursue a career in professional wrestling.  And we all know what a party animal he is.  Well, now he’s un-retiring, and reuniting with the quarterback who’s thrown 90 touchdown passes to him over the years.

Think of Tampa Bay’s offense right now: Brady, Evans, Godwin and now Gronk.  The Buccaneers now have three tight ends when you add Howard and Brate to the equation.  Bruce Arians doesn’t use tight ends much in the passing game.  You’d have to think that’s going to change now.

But at a time when sports are not happening, the Bucs are currently the talk of the sports world.  When was the last time we could say that?

Hopefully they address their needs during the upcoming draft.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TB12 Is Still TB12

Okay – we have this whole numbers game figured out without any drama.

Tom Brady will still wear No. 12.  And Chris Godwin, who used to wear that number, will now switch to No. 14.  Godwin offered Brady his longtime number, and it goes without saying that TB12 accepted.

I’ve liked Godwin from the beginning, and this classy move makes me like him even more.  When you talk about the Bucs’ receivers, it used to be, “Mike Evans is a stud.”  Now, it’s “What a two-headed monster they have.”

By the way – the Buccaneers teased today that the new uniforms are coming out one week from today – April 7.  The anticipation is building.

Everybody stay safe out there during these challenging times.  It’s rough on all of us, but we will come out of this stronger than ever.  And God bless everyone on the front lines of this pandemic.

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

My Day at Ray-Jay: Bucs Rally Past Colts

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that I make one trip down to Tampa each year to see the Buccaneers in action, in person.  I just returned home, and will now offer my thoughts on Tampa Bay’s 38-35 win over Indianapolis.  I won’t go in-depth with stats here, because you all know by now what happened in the game.

Here’s the short version: this was the wildest Bucs game I have ever seen in person at Ray-Jay.  It wasn’t the prettiest, and it was far from perfect, but the entertainment value was a 10 on a scale of 1-to-10.

Would I see good Jameis or bad Jameis?  I saw the extreme versions of both.  First, the bad.  About 60 seconds after I told him from my seat, “don’t screw up,” he threw a pick.  A few plays later, it was 7-0 Colts.  Then came that moment in the second quarter when the Bucs were driving into Colts’ territory.  Jameis threw another bad interception, and I had a clear view down the near sideline where the defensive player was running.  Nothing but green grass.  I said, “goodbye,” long before he reached the end zone to cap off his pick-six. Winston also threw another INT that drew groans from us Bucs fans.

Now, let’s talk about the good Jameis.  He threw four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth score on a quarterback sneak (if you’re a fan, you know how rare the latter is.)  And he did much of it without superstar Mike Evans, who caught one of the TD’s on a beautiful deep ball in the second quarter.  But Evans pulled his hamstring en route to the end zone, and was out for the rest of the game.  Tampa Bay was down 35-21 in the third quarter, and Winston led the Bucs to 17 unanswered points to pull it out.

Let’s talk about crowd – announced as just over 50,000.  There was a LOT of Indy blue, especially behind the Colts’ sideline.  A loud chant of “let’s go Colts!” even broke out at one point.  We booed them.  They shut up.  But they had their moment in the sun.  In the fourth quarter, they were nice and quiet when we got the “Tampa……Bay!!!!” chant going, which really is the only chant that matters when you’re at Ray-Jay.

Speaking of fans, I must talk about a guy who I will simply call “Fitz,” because he looked like former Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.  If you look at the photo at the top of this post, he’s the one holding a beer, hugging another fan.  This guy was wasted from the get-go.  Every time Winston made a good play, he yelled, “that’s my quarterback!”  After the pick-six, I yelled to him, “is he still your quarterback?”  He seemed oblivious to that.  The booze kept flowing, and he kept yelling.  At one point, after getting another beer, he gave me a high-five as he was returning to his seat.  God bless you, Fitz.  You will go down as the most memorable fan from this game (in my book.)

And it would be ridiculous if I did not give a shout-out to the two ladies who accompanied me to the game.  I won’t mention their first names unless they want me to, in which case I will update this post.  But they are so much fun to hang out with.

So, it was an exciting (and warm) day at the stadium.  And any time it ends with a win, it’s even better.  Tampa, we’ll meet again next year.

Bucs Come Up Big in Atlanta

Think of everything that happened in Tampa Bay’s 35-22 win over the Falcons on Sunday in Atlanta.

Jameis Winston threw two more interceptions, but also three touchdowns.  Two of them went to superstar Chris Godwin.  The other one was caught by Vita Vea.

Vita Vea?

Yes, the guy on the defensive line who weighs 347 pounds reported as an eligible receiver, and caught a 1-yard TD pass.


The Bucs defense played well.  Yes, you read that right.  They had six sacks.  They forced two turnovers, once of which was a fumble returned for a touchdown by Ndamukong Suh.  With the exception of the second play of the game, the secondary did a nice job covering the Falcons’ receivers.  Atlanta was just 4-of-16 on third downs.  Where has this defense been over the past two months or so?

Need more insanity?  Matt Gay missed three extra points (one of them blocked.)  And those misses didn’t come back to haunt the Bucs.

Godwin and Mike Evans are both over 1,000 yards receiving.  Vea is suddenly a touchdown machine.  And Tampa Bay is staying out of the cellar of the NFC South for the time being.

Enjoy Victory Monday, Bucs fans.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Midseason Report

Now that we’re officially halfway through the 2019 NFL season, it’s time to reflect on what we’ve seen so far in the first eight games for the Bucs.  You’ll notice I’m not going through every player or every position.  I’m just going to pick and choose.  So here we go:

OFFENSIVE MVP: Mike Evans.  This guy is a stud; there’s no other way to say it.  Remember how he started off with no touchdowns in the first two games?  Well, now he has seven.  His 842 receiving yards are second in the NFL behind only Michael Thomas of the Saints.  Evans and Chris Godwin have become one of the best receiving tandems in the league.

DEFENSIVE MVP: Shaq Barrett.  What a pickup this guy was.  He leads the league in sacks with 10.5, eight of which came in the first three games.  The drop-off since then is likely attributed to teams paying more attention to him now, but that opens up opportunities for others.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: the secondary.  Even with all those draft picks spent on this group, they’re still terrible.  They’re allowing 31 points a game.  They are second-worst in defending the pass (Oakland sneaked ahead of them!)  And yet, the run defense is best in the league.  Knowing that, it’s no secret why teams are just throwing the ball at will.

BIGGEST QUESTION MARK: Jameis Winston.  Believe me, I read all kinds of comments from the lovers and haters on a weekly basis.  The haters point to all the turnovers and bad decisions.  The lovers will mention the big passing games he’s had, and how the aforementioned secondary is making him look back.  It will very interesting to see what the Bucs do with him after this season.

BEST GAME SO FAR: The Week 4 win over the Rams in L.A.  Tampa Bay pulled a stunner, scoring a season-high 55 points against the defending NFC champs.

WORST GAME SO FAR: the game right before that, against the Giants.  The Bucs blew a 28-10 lead, and made rookie QB Daniel Jones look like a superstar, as they have with so many other rookie and backup quarterbacks.  Has anyone seen what Jones has done since that game?

So, there’s a quick summary.  The Bucs finally play a home game this weekend against the Cardinals.  It’s only their third game at Ray-Jay so far.  And in just over a month, I’ll be heading down to Tampa for the game against the Colts.

Go Bucs!

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Yet Another Frustrating Bucs Loss

You have to admit this about the Buccaneers: they keep finding creative new ways to lose the game.  In their 27-23 loss to the Titans, let’s take a look:

Jameis Winston committed four more turnovers: two interceptions, two lost fumbles, though the first fumble was arguably more of Ryan Jensen’s fault for a bad shotgun snap.  Tennessee’s first two TD drives covered a total of 16 yards.  Winston is responsible for ten turnovers in the last two games.  Ten.

Now let’s go to the touchdown by Mike Evans – who had monster game – right before halftime.  The score was 17-15.  Bruce Arians decided to go for two, and the Bucs were unsuccessful.  Why would you go for two that situation, with a whole second half to play?  Had they just kicked the extra point to pull within one, they would’ve needed just a field goal down the stretch.

Then there’s the play that we’re ready to murder the refs over.  Late in the fourth quarter, the Titans tried a fake punt.  Devin White clobbered the runner, forced a fumble, and Andrew Adams picked it up and ran it all the way back.  But for some ridiculous reason, the officials blew the play dead after the fumble recovery.  Why?  That play would’ve given Tampa Bay the lead with just over three minutes remaining.

And finally, at the two-minute warning, the Bucs had 4th-and-1 from the Tennessee 32.  They line up in the shotgun and…. hand the ball off to Peyton Barber?  What kind of a play call is that?  You’ve got Evans and Chris Godwin as weapons.  In my opinion, Ronald Jones is a better back that Barber.  But once Barber got the handoff – in the shotgun, 4th-and-1 turned into 4th-and-5.  And naturally, he got stuffed.  Heck, if you’re going to run, why not try a quarterback sneak?  Byron Leftwich deserves all the criticism in the world for that decision.

Speaking of play-calling, I’m baffled as to why players like Dare Ogunbowale and Breshad Perriman get their numbers called.  They are terrible.

All in all, this was yet another case of the Bucs beating the Bucs.  They made mistakes, and the Titans made them pay.  Tampa Bay is now 2-5, with a cross-country trip to Seattle staring them in the face.  Oh, my.

Photo courtesy: Tennessee Titans

Bucs Play Worst Game of 2019 in London

The first play of this game turned out to be a precursor of what the next three hours or so would bring: Jameis Winston throwing an interception.

Winston would throw four more picks before the day was over.  And the Bucs played arguably their worst all-around game of the season in a 37-26 loss to the Panthers in London.  The Buccaneers turned it over seven times in this one.

Winston was abysmal.  The offensive line was horrible, allowing seven sacks.  The secondary was pathetic.  There was Mike Evans – dropping a rare perfect deep ball by Winston just before the half – a play that could been a game-changer.  The Bucs made another backup quarterback look like Tom Brady.  Does all of that sound familiar?  It should; we’ve been seeing this movie for the last several years – not weeks or months, years.

Tampa Bay now sits at 2-4 heading into the bye week.  What changes, if any, will Bruce Arians make?  He has to do something, because this team is a mess once again.

That’s all the venting I’ll do for now.  I’ll do some more in a forthcoming post.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

An Awful Loss For the Bucs

Attention Tampa Bay fans: after a gratifying win over Carolina, we have just been reminded that the Bucs are still…the Bucs.

They lost to the Giants on Sunday afternoon, 32-31.  It was a game in which Matt Gay missed two extra points, and a 34-yard field goal as time expired that would’ve won the game.  That’s five points left on the field.  I guess I was wrong when I wrote before the season began that this team appeared to have solved its kicking problems.  That is a resounding ‘no.’

In my game preview, I wrote that the Buccaneers have a history of making rookie and backup quarterbacks look like superstars.  Well, Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones led his team back from an 18-point halftime deficit, and scored the game-winning touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining.  I rest my case.  This defense may be improved over last year, but still has a long way to go to become elite.

Jameis Winston did not lose this game.  Mike Evans did not lose this game.  Evans had three touchdowns, and the two connected on a huge pass in the final minute to set up what should’ve been a game-winning kick.  And this may be lost in the shuffle: the Bucs got hit with a delay of game penalty before Gay’s final miss.  Would that five yards have made a difference, given how close the kick was?  Either way, Matt Gay HAS to make that kick.

There’s more to write about, but I am sick to my stomach.  And I am angry.  With the next six weeks away from home, this was a game Tampa Bay had to have.  They didn’t get it.

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Third Preseason Game

Here are some takeaways from the Bucs’ 13-12 victory over the Browns in the third preseason game.  Since this was the so-called dress rehearsal game, in which the starters play the longest, this was the most critical game before it counts for real.

Tampa Bay’s defense is going to be lightyears ahead of where it was last year.  I know that’s not saying much, but new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has definitely made a difference.  They kept an up-and-coming Browns team out of the end zone all night.

I’m very concerned about the offensive line.  There was a lot of talk after the draft about how the Buccaneers did not address this need, and now it’s showing.  There are very few holes in the running game.  The pass protection is awful; Jameis Winston was sacked five times while he was in there.  Yes, there is still time to fix this.  But it’s hard to establish a running game when the guys up front can’t open up holes.  And what difference does it make if you have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on your team if your quarterback can’t get them the ball, not to mention Winston’s inconsistencies with throwing the deep ball.

Matt Gay missed a kick.  He’s human!  But he responded with another game-winner.  I think he’s going to win the kicking job, though veteran Cairo Santos has done nothing to hurt his own cause.

Ryan Griffin will be the Bucs’ backup QB to start the season, after Blaine Gabbert left the game with an injury.  Who knows how long he’ll be out.

I will not be writing anything about the final, most meaningless-of-them-all preseason game against Dallas, unless major news happens.  The opener is just two weeks away.  Let’s go.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers