Heading West

Hello all. A quick note to my readers:

I will not be writing about the Bucs/Rams game after it’s over on Sunday because, I’ll be there. Yes, I’m taking in two Buccaneers’ games in-person this year: Sunday in L.A. and mid-December against the Saints in Tampa. Anyway, Sunday’s game is part of a much-needed vacation, so I’ll be quiet here for the next week and a half or so. I will resume coverage after Tampa Bay’s game against the Patriots.

Until then, be well, stay safe, and go Bucs.

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 Ready To Go For Two

It’s almost time for the Super Bowl champs to start their title defense.  Now that the preseason is in the books, we can really start looking forward to opening night – September 9th – at Ray-Jay against the Cowboys.

I hadn’t been intentionally ignoring training camp or the preseason.  There just wasn’t a whole lot going on, since the starters barely saw any playing time.  Last night’s final preseason game against the Texans was the only time we saw the starters see nearly a half’s worth of action.  And the Bucs looked like they’re ready for Dallas on both sides of the ball.

All 22 starters are returning from last year’s Super Bowl team.  As long as Tampa Bay stays healthy, the Buccaneers should be in contention.

As Bruce Arians said, they’re going for two.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Champs Get Their Bling

I guess this is the preverbal icing on the cake, or in this case, the hands.

On Thursday night, the Super Bowl Champs got their Super Bowl LV rings.

What does the bling include?  Two Lombardi Trophies, 319 diamonds (the final score of the game was 31-9,) and the team logo.  But there’s more: the interior is a 3-D display of Ray-Jay.  According to the team’s official website, this is the first Super Bowl ring ever to feature a twist-off top, and the first to include the stadium the game was played in as its design.

Not too shabby.

The glory of last year is just about over.  Well, Bruce Arians would tell you that.  The Bucs begin training camp on Sunday, as they begin their journey toward ‘goin’ for two’.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Draft: Bucs Choose OLB Tryon

We’re not used to the Buccaneers picking at the very end of the first round of the draft.  But that’s what happens when you win the Super Bowl.  And with the 32nd overall pick, the Bucs went with a pass rusher: outside linebacker Joe Tryon from Washington.

Because I am not big on studying draftees, as usual, the first thing I said was “who’s he?”  Now that I’ve read up on him, I know that he didn’t play at all last year because he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.  In the previous year, he was a stud, with eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

I’m okay with this pick.  The Bucs brought back all of their stars from their Super Bowl team, so they’re adding depth on defense.  And if he can be as effective as fellow husky Vita Vea, then all the better.

Good News on Brady and Lavonte

This has been a big week for the Super Bowl champs, with news regarding three of their star players.

We’ll start with today’s news.  Tom Brady has extended his contract.  He’ll be playing with the Bucs beyond this upcoming season.  Second, Lavonte David signed a two-year contract extension that will ensure his career in Tampa will last more than a decade.  He and Devin White make up arguably the best linebacker duo in the league.  And earlier this week, the Buccaneers placed the franchise tag on Chris Godwin.

As Bruce Arians would say, they “ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Yes, there are many more players that are set to become free agents.  Some of the biggest include Shaq Barrett, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette and Ryan Succop.  But this is at least a good start toward keeping the nucleus together.

Photo courtesy: @tombrady

Some Post-Super Bowl Thoughts on the Bucs

Now that I’ve had a chance to let the Super Bowl victory sink in, and watch the Buccaneers turn into big-time party animals during their boat parade, it’s time to hand out some postseason honors.  There is no rhyme or reason to any of these categories; I’m just going to do these at random.

Offensive MVP: Tom Brady

How could a 43-year old quarterback leave a team he’s been with for 20 years, join one that hadn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade, and end up winning a Super Bowl in his first year with his new team.  When your name is Tom Brady, of course.  Brady looks like he could play until he’s 50 (though he probably won’t.)  As you would expect with him, there was a lot more good than bad.  The number of turnovers from the quarterback position dropped off dramatically compared to his predecessor, Jameis Winston.  After going 7-5 through the first 12 games, Brady led the Bucs on an 8-game winning streak, and their second Super Bowl title.  And you’d be crazy to say he didn’t help others elevate their games.

Defensive MVP: Devin White

When the Bucs drafted this guy two years ago, we the fans said, ‘he’d better be the next Derrick Brooks.’  Well, he’s on his way.  White was sensational in his sophomore year in Tampa, leading the team in tackles.  And that’s with missing the regular season finale and the wild card game against Washington due to COVID.  White’s INT late in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl was the cherry on top of a tremendous season.  Or, maybe the official dessert was getting to ride his horse around Ray-Jay for a victory lap after the parade.  It was well-earned.

Best rookie: Tristan Wirfs

This is the guy the Buccaneers took in the first round of the 2020 draft.  What a pick this turned out to be.  One big question I had going into the season was, how well could the offensive line protect Tom Brady?  Wirfs got the job done, and then some.  You didn’t hear a lot about him during telecasts.  That’s because he was doing his job, and not committing penalties.  Antoine Winfield Jr. will get a lot of praise for his work in the secondary – and his little feud with Tyreek Hill – but I’m giving Wirfs the ever-so-slight edge.

Best special teams player: Ryan Succop

You all know how dreadful the Bucs’ kicking game has been over the years.  Succop is another player they picked up in free agency.  In 2020, he made 28-of-31 field goals during the regular season.  That’s 90%.  He was 9-for-9 in the playoffs.  He brought an enormous deal of comfort to a position that has been a weak spot for a long time.

There are many more honorable mentions, but these are just a few.  I’m sure you’re all aware of all the free agents the Bucs have to deal with.  But that’s for Jason Licht to handle in the coming months.  In the meantime, just keep reliving the moment, because who knows when this will ever happen again.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS!!!!

They did it!

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, beating the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9. It’s the Bucs’ second championship, and first in 18 years.

Tom Brady is your MVP. He still has it at age 43.

But to me, the real MVP is Todd Bowles. The defense played the game of its life, keeping Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense out of the end zone.

Go crazy, Bucs fans. Enjoy this for awhile!

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

THE BUCS ARE IN THE SUPER BOWL!

It’s been a little more than 24 hours since the Buccaneers punched their ticket to Super Bowl LV.  I admit: it still doesn’t seem real yet.  It still hasn’t sunk in.

When Tom Brady came to Tampa during the offseason, we all knew this was the goal.  But much impact could a 43-year-old quarterback possibly have on a team that hadn’t even made the playoffs in 13 years?

Well, now we know.  An 11-5 record.  A wild card berth.  Three straight playoff wins on the road against three division champions, including the top-seeded Packers on Sunday.  And now, a Super Bowl on their home field against the defending champs, the Chiefs.

The NFC Championship game in Green Bay was, in many ways, a typical 2020 game for the Bucs.  They looked outstanding for 30 minutes, then hung on for dear life in the second half.  Heck, Brady threw three interceptions on three straight possessions.  But the Packers converted those miscued into just six points.  And who know what would’ve happened if Green Bay had not decided to kick a field goal with just over two minutes remaining, trailing by eight, with the ball inside the Bucs’ 10-yard line.

But none of that matters now.  Our Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be making just their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.  We all remember the last one; in 2002, they went to San Diego and blew out the Raiders.  Now, they face superstar Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City.

But we’ll dive more into the matchup later on.  For now, let’s just cherish the moment.  It is no longer a dream; the Bucs are in the Super Bowl.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Countdown to the NFC Championship Game

Here we stand, about 48 hours from the NFC Championship game between the Buccaneers and the Packers in Green Bay.  Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers.  Around 6:30 Sunday night, we should know whether the Bucs will be playing in Super Bowl XV, in their home stadium.

The Bucs got some good news and bad news on Friday.  First, the good news: nose tackle Vita Vea, who was thought to be out for the season, has been activated for the game.  This will give a big (literally) boost to Tampa Bay’s defense as they face a potent Green Bay offense.

On the downside, Antonio Brown has been ruled out.  Fortunately, the Bucs still have plenty of weapons in the passing game to make up for his absence.

This is only the fourth time ever that Tampa Bay has made it to the NFC title game.  The Bucs are 1-2 all time, with the last one being the victory over the Eagles in the 2002 season that sent the Buccaneers on their way to becoming Super Bowl champs.  They lost their other two appearances – in 1979 and 1999.

These two teams have only met one other time in the postseason.  In January 1998, the Bucs went to Lambeau Field and lost, 21-7, in the divisional round.

Never before has there been a ‘Battle of the Bays’ with so much at stake.  These two teams used play each other twice a year, back in the old NFC Central days.  I expect a terrific ballgame in Green Bay on Sunday.