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

It's Official: Brady to the Bucs

It’s official.  It’s really happening.  Sure – I’ve been hearing about this news since Tuesday night, but being a diehard fan, I wanted to hear the official announcement.  And on Friday morning, I did.

Tom Brady – the greatest of all time – is now the Buccaneers’ new starting quarterback.

A month ago, there’s no way I could’ve pictured this happening.  Even when Tampa Bay was mentioned as one of the teams in the running for Brady, I considered it a longshot.  Well, people who know me know that I’m usually wrong more than I’m right.  I did it again on this one.

There’s no need for me to mention all of Brady’s accomplishments.  You know them all – highlighted by the six Super Bowl wins.

Can a 42-year old quarterback really bring a championship to a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007?  We’ll see.  The offensive line needs more.  The Bucs don’t have much of a running game.  And the pass coverage, while showing improvement late in 2019, still needs some help.  And it wouldn’t hurt to draft a quarterback in next month’s draft, since Brady isn’t going to be in Tampa for very long.

But man, this is exciting with a capital E.  The Bucs have struggled mightily to fill up Ray-Jay, and when they do, it’s usually because of thousands of visiting team’s fans.  I have a feeling we’re going to see some sellouts in 2020.  Those visiting team fans will still be there, but Bucs fans will occupy the rest, and drown them out.

Let’s go!

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.

Heading South, and Hoping For Another Win

This weekend, I will be making my annual pilgrimage to Tampa to see the Buccaneers.  They’re taking on the Indianapolis Colts at 1:00.

With that in mind, I decided to take a trip down memory lane.  Here’s what’s happened over the last ten years when I’ve seen the Bucs in person at Ray-Jay.  They’ve won more than they lost (8-3), which is pretty remarkable when you consider they’ve only had two winning seasons during this time period.  A footnote: I went to two games in 2012 but did not go to any in 2013.

The photo at the top of this article is from the Monday night victory over Indianapolis eight years ago.

December 2, 2018:  Bucs 24, Panthers 17

December 10, 2017: Lions 24, Bucs 21

December 11, 2016: Bucs 16, Saints 11

December 6, 2015: Bucs 23, Falcons 19

November 9, 2014: Falcons 27, Bucs 17

November 17, 2013: Bucs 41, Falcons 28

November 9, 2012: Bucs 16, Panthers 10

November 11, 2012: Bucs 34, Chargers 24

November 3, 2011: Bucs 24, Colts 17

November 4, 2010: Bucs 31, Panthers 16

November 2, 2009: Saints 38, Bucs 7

I will be back with more on the game, and my adventure, on Monday.

Finally, Another Win!

Winning cures everything, right?

Well, I would hardly say the Buccaneers are cured of all their problems.  But it’s always nice at the end of the day when your score is higher than your opponent’s.  Tampa Bay beat Arizona at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 30-27.

This was by no means a work of art.  Jameis Winston threw two more interceptions.  The secondary looked like, well, the secondary.  The Bucs got schooled on a fake punt.  And they got the break of the season when Arizona’s Maxx Williams dropped what would’ve been an easy touchdown on 4th down in the fourth quarter.

But in the end, Peyton Barber’s 1-yard run with 1:43 left was the game-winner.  And after the Bucs took the lead, raise your hand if you thought the Cardinals would march right down the field to tie or win the game.  Surprisingly, that didn’t happen.

There was definitely an effort to get Ronald Jones more involved in the game.  He had more yards receiving (77) than rushing (29.)  He did score a touchdown on the ground, but also lost a fumble without being touched. 

It was easy to see why both teams have losing records.  There were mistakes galore on both sides.  But Tampa Bay’s four-game losing streak is over, and it feels so good.

The Saints come to Ray-Jay next week.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 3 Preview: Buccaneers vs Giants

The Buccaneers will go for their second straight win on Sunday when they host the Giants at Ray-Jay.

The headline for this game – at least on a national level – is the quarterback change made by the Giants.  Eli Manning is on the bench, and rookie Daniel Jones gets his first career start.  For any Tampa Bay fans who think this is great news, I will politely remind you that the Bucs have a history of making rookie and backup quarterbacks look like superstars.  Remember Derek Anderson?

In addition to preparing for Jones, one of the keys for the Bucs will be stopping Saquon Barkley, much like they were able to contain Christian McCaffrey last Thursday night.

Offensively, this is stating the obvious: the Buccaneers have to protect the football and cut down on penalties.  The latter has been a big problem in the first two games.

Another reason this is an important game: Tampa Bay won’t play another game at Ray-Jay until November 10.  The next six weeks consist of four road games, a “home” game in London, and the bye week. Yikes.

Kickoff is at 4:05, and will be televised around here on Boston 25.  For the second time in three weeks, Kenny Albert and Ronde Barber are the announcers.  Barber will be inducted into the Bucs’ Ring of Honor at halftime.  His pick-six in against the Eagles in the 2002 NFC Championship game is arguably the greatest play in team history.

Bucs Lose To 49ers in Ugly Opener

Here are some quick thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 31-17 loss to the 49ers in the season opener at Ray-Jay:

As ugly as this game was, I will start with some positives.  The Bucs actually had a running game, led by a rejuvenated Ronald Jones.  The defense looks much, much better than past years.  Vernon Hargreaves III came up with a rare pick-six.  This unit only allowed one offensive touchdown.  So how did San Francisco get 31 points?  Oh, I’m getting to that.  But first, one more positive: rookie kicker Matt Gay was perfect on the day.

Now, let’s get to the ugly stuff:

Jameis Winston had an awful game.  He had three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.  The other one, admittedly, went right through O.J. Howard’s hands.  But Winston was consistently off-target.  He fumbled a snap.  This is the year he has to break out and play like a No. 1 overall pick.  This was not a good start.  And if Twitter was a member of the Bucs coaching staff, Winston would be out on the street right now looking for work.  He MUST do better than this, or his ass is going to be on the bench very soon.

I said I was concerned about the offensive line before the season began.  They did not perform well against the ‘Niners.  Winston was sacked three times, and Demar Dotson was penalized twice for holding, which nullified would-be touchdowns.  The offensive line play makes the running game’s performance even that much more amazing.

Now, I want to take about the curious decision by Bruce Arians early in the fourth quarter.  The score was 20-14.  The Bucs kicked a field goal, but the 49ers were penalized for offsides.  Instead of making it a three-point game, Arians decided to go for it on 4th down from the 2.  Winston’s pass was batted away.  So instead of it being 20-17, the Bucs still needed a touchdown to pull it out – a score they would not get.  So, Arians is a gambler, eh?  He’s 0-for-1 so far.

Next up: the Panthers on Thursday night.  This is the Gerald McCoy Bowl, part one.

Photo courtesy: San Francisco 49ers

Some Thoughts on the Bucs’ Second Preseason Game

We are now halfway through the preseason, and training camp is officially over.  The Bucs are 1-1 in the preseason, having beaten the Dolphins, 16-14, on Friday night at Ray-Jay.  Here are some takeaways from that game:

The headline may be what happened at the very end of the game, when rookie kicker Matt Gay nailed a 48-yarder to win it.  It’s looking more and more like Gay is going to be Tampa Bay’s kicker, even though Cairo Santos hasn’t done anything bad to justify losing his job.  The rookie has opened eyes with his performance.

It was also a solid performance by Ryan Griffin, who saw the most action of any of the Bucs’ quarterbacks.  Granted, he was playing against Miami’s backups, but the backup QB job is up for grabs, despite Blaine Gabbert’s familiarity with Bruce Arians’ system.

Jameis Winston only played one series for the second straight game.  Let’s just skip over him for now.

My biggest concern may not be the defense, but the offensive line.  Penalties are also a big problem right now.  Arians needs to get this fixed.

The next game is Friday night against Cleveland.  This is the so-called “dress rehearsal,” when the starters tend to play the longest.  The third preseason game is always the one to watch.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 2019 Buccaneers Schedule

The day the NFL schedule comes out is sort of like Christmas in April for us football fans. It’s time to look over the schedule, think which games are winnable/not winnable, only to be proven wrong in five months, etc. And for own-of-town fans like me, it’s time to start thinking about when to take a road trip to Ray-Jay to see the Bucs.

 

Here’s the schedule:

 

Sept. 8 – SAN FRANCISCO

Sept. 12 – at Carolina (Thursday night)

Sept. 22 – NEW YORK GIANTS

Sept. 29 – at L.A. Rams

Oct. 6 – at New Orleans

Oct. 13 – CAROLINA (in London)

—-BYE WEEK—–

Oct. 27 – at Tennessee

Nov. 3 – at Seattle

Nov. 10 – ARIZONA

Nov. 17 – NEW ORLEANS

Nov. 24 – at Atlanta

Dec. 1 – at Jacksonville

Dec. 8 – INDIANAPOLIS

Dec. 15 – at Detroit

Dec. 22 – HOUSTON

Dec. 29 – ATLANTA

 

Tampa Bay has historically gotten rough stretches, and this year is no different. After hosting the Giants in Week 3, the Bucs don’t play another home game until… Week TEN?! The Bucs will be the “home” team for the game in London, but it’s ridiculous that they have to go nearly two months between “real” home games.

Bucs/Panthers in London Next Season

We’ve known for a little while now that the Buccaneers would be playing a ‘home’ game away from Ray-Jay next season.  Now we know who…and where.

 

The Bucs announced today that their game against the Panthers will be played in London.

 

I understand why Tampa Bay has to give up a home game; Tampa will be hosting the Super Bowl in 2021.  But I don’t understand this selection by the NFL at all.  Why would you take a divisional matchup away from the fans in Tampa?  The games against the Panthers, Saints and Falcons carry more weight than the others.

 

Screw you, Mr. Goodell.

 

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers