A Big Comeback For the Bucs Against L.A.

Yeah, this Brady guy still has it.

On Sunday, he threw five touchdown passes to rally the Buccaneers from a 17-point deficit to beat the L.A. Chargers, 38-31.  It was Tampa Bay’s second-largest comeback in franchise history.

Those who still doubt TB12 will point to the pick-six he threw in the first quarter.  But he more than made up for that mistake.  What’s more, his five touchdown passes went to five different receivers.  And he did it without Chris Godwin, and lost O.J. Howard in the second half to an Achilles injury.  Early indications are that Howard may be done for the season.  But Howard, Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, Cameron Brate and even rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn found the end zone.

This game turned in the final minute of the first half.  The Chargers fumbled away a botched handoff inside their own 10.  The Bucs took over and scored a touchdown.  Tampa Bay went into the locker room down by 10 instead of 17.  The Bucs came out firing on all cylinders after halftime.

Another bright spot: Ronald Jones finally rushed for over 100 yards.  Without Leonard Fournette in the lineup, it was nice to see the Bucs were still able to establish a running game.

Was this a perfect performance?  No.  The young secondary got burned twice for deep touchdowns by a very game L.A. quarterback, Justin Herbert.  Ryan Succop missed a field goal.  There were way too many penalties – again.

But the Bucs have won three in a row, and ¼ of the way into the season, they are alone in first place in the NFC South.  They go to Chicago to play the 3-1 Bears on Thursday night.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

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

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

Week 1 Preview: Buccaneers at Saints

This is one of, if not the marquee game of Week 1.  Tom Brady’s debut as Tampa Bay’s quarterback, against Drew Brees and the Saints, who have won the division three straight years.  Both QB’s are in their 40s, and both are still playing at a very high level.

This has all the making of a shootout, especially in the passing game.  The Bucs have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski, though Evans is now listed as doubtful for Sunday.  The Saints have Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  Both teams can, and probably will, light up the scoreboard.

The Bucs running game hasn’t been much to speak of in recent years.  Can they establish something on Sunday?

Defensively, Tampa Bay is top-notch up front, and has two quality linebackers in Lavonte David and Devin White.  The question becomes: can the young secondary keep Brees in check?

Do you remember…

….the last time these two teams opened the season in the Superdome?  It was two years ago, and the Bucs pulled off a 48-40 upset, with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing four touchdown passes.  That was arguably the greatest moment of 2018.  Tampa Bay finished 5-11.  They may need to score 48 points to win this opener as well.

The first game of the season is always tough to predict. But the Saints are the defending champs, and you’re going to have to beat them to prove otherwise.

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

Catching Up On the Bucs

The Buccaneers’ training camp is well underway, and the regular season opener in New Orleans is just 17 days away, if the schedule holds.  Here are some observations from training camp so far:

Offensively, the Bucs are loaded.  Brady.  Evans.  Godwin.  Gronk.  All of them have looked great.  Brady, now 43, looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.  However, two Bucs have been lost for the season due to injury: John Franklin and T.J. Logan.

That leaves the offensive line and running game as question marks.  Ronald Jones is now joined by LeSean McCoy in the backfield.  And it looks like under Bruce Arians’ offense, they’re going to be catching a lot more passes out of the backfield.  They’re struggled a bit in that department.  That has to change.

We know the defensive line is top notch.  So much of the focus is on the young secondary.  The Bucs need Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Carlton Davis and others to continue showing improvement.  Second-year stud Devin White looks like he’s on the path to becoming a superstar.

And then, there’s special teams.  The Bucs have a kicking competition going on (don’t they always?)  It’s between second-year kicker Matt Gay and newcomer Elliott Fry.  Both of them have missed their share of kicks.  Arians says the one who’s the most consistent will get the job.  Can’t we just bring back Martin Grammatica?  And don’t even get me started on who’s going to be running back kicks.

There is, of course, much more to camp than just this.  The Bucs hold their first scrimmage at Ray-Jay Friday night.  Final cuts are coming soon.  This should be interesting.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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.