Bucs Get Statement Win Over Packers

Whatever Tom Brady and Bruce Arians said to the team after that ugly loss in Chicago, wow, did it pay dividends.

On Sunday, the Bucs blew out the previously undefeated Packers at Ray-Jay, 38-10.  I’m trying to remember the last time Tampa Bay dominated a quality opponent like this.  It was a long, long time ago.

And the thing is, this one didn’t even start well.  Green Bay dominated the first quarter, taking a 10-0 lead.  But then Jamel Dean picked off Aaron Rodgers and returned it for a touchdown.  A few minutes later, another Rodgers INT, another Bucs’ touchdown.  The Bucs led 14-10, and that was only the beginning.  The Buccaneers scored 38 unanswered points.  This was blowout city.

Gronk caught his first touchdown in a Tampa Bay uniform.  The defense was incredible after Dean’s pick-six.  Ronald Jones had his third straight 100-yard rushing game.

But this may be the most impressive stat of them all: the Bucs had zero penalties in this game.  Zilch.  Nada.  Ndamukong Suh was flagged for a personal foul, but that was canceled out by an intentional grounding call on Rodgers.  How did they pull off such a clean game after what happened last Thursday at Soldier field?  I don’t know, but it was fun to watch.

The Bucs are now 4-2, and alone in first place in the NFC South as of this writing.  They’re off to Vegas next week, and so am I.  The Raiders won’t have any fans in their brand new stadium, but I’ll cheering for my Bucs someplace on the Strip.

Photo courtesy: USA Today

Undisciplined Bucs Lose to Bears; Vea Out for the Season

This was another one of those game where it’s so frustrating being a Bucs fan.

If I had to pick one word to sum up the Buccaneer’s 20-19 loss to the Bears, it would be “undisciplined.”  That’s not a new word, of course, and it’s been used over and over to describe Tampa Bay over the years.

Eleven penalties for 109 yards is inexcusable.  And while you can criticize the refs for a couple of them – the personal foul call on Shaq Barrett comes to mind – the main takeaway from this game was all the yellow flags thrown against the Buccaneers.  Yes, Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs had rough nights against a very good Chicago defense.  But still.

And what about the play-calling?  Don’t get me started on the drive when the Bucs were up by a point, went three-and-out, and took less than 20 seconds off the clock.  And no, Mr. Brady, you did not have one more down on that final drive.

And if that’s not bad enough, it appears the Bucs have lost Vita Vea for the rest of the season with a broken leg.  That is a huge loss for a defense that’s been outstanding against the run.

This was a winnable game.  The Bucs didn’t win it.  And the Packers come to town next Sunday.  Oh, boy.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press

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

2 Wins in a Row for the Bucs

The Buccaneers are over .500.  They’ve won two in a row.  And yet, you get the feeling they’re still not where they want to be.

On Sunday, the Bucs were in control from the start, beating the Broncos 28-10 in Denver.  Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions.  And the defense was outstanding: two interceptions, a safety, and six sacks, including two by former Bronco Shaq Barrett, against an injury-riddled Denver team.  The defense deserves the game ball for this victory.

Still, there is work to be done.  The offense was inept in the second half for the second week in a row.  There were more dropped passes.  There were way too many penalties – again (9 for 71 yards.)  And while special teams blocked a punt that led to a TD, they also had a PAT blocked.  And who knows how serious the hamstring injury is to Chris Godwin.

But we’ll take the wins any way we can get them.  And it’s not every day the Bucs beat an opponent by 18 points.  They’re back home to face the Chargers next week.

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

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

Bucs Sign RB LeSean McCoy

The Buccaneers just keep adding more weapons to their offense.

On Tuesday, they officially signed veteran running back LeSean McCoy.  We’re talking about a guy who has the most yards from scrimmage since 2009.  Not only can he run, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield.  He will join Ronald Jones in the backfield.

We all know the Bucs need any semblance of a running game.  This should help.