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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Judging a preseason game is so difficult. You ignore the final score, and try instead
to focus on who shined, and who didn’t.
It’s even tougher when a lot of the starters either play very little, or
not at all. That said, here are some
thoughts from the Bucs’ 30-28 loss to the Steelers in the preseason opener.
Jameis Winston, who’s looked on-and-off during training
camp, was definitely on in this game. He
led Tampa Bay on 12-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to
Chris Godwin. With Adam Humphries gone,
Godwin is now the #2 receiver behind Mike Evans. The drive was a nice mix of running the ball
(yes, they actually ran it effectively) and passing.
The first-team defense only saw limited action, and wasn’t
facing the Steelers’ starters, including Ben Roethlisberger, so it’s hard to
judge this unit. They have been making
quite a few plays in camp. Any
improvement these days would be considered a plus.
The battle that intrigues me the most is for kicker. It’s rookie Matt Gay against the guy who
finished last year, Cairo Santos. On
Friday night, Gay made his only attempt, from 55 yards out. He and Santos have both been lights out in
training camp. Let me reiterate that:
the kickers are actually making kicks.
It will be interesting to see who wins the job. Right now, it’s a toss-up.
In case you missed it: Vita Vea will miss several weeks with
a knee injury. At least he’s not out for
the season. The Bucs also released offensive
lineman Evan Smith, who spent the last five seasons in Tampa.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers kick off the 2018 season in New Orleans against the Saints.
Remember last year when we had to wait half the year to play a division foe? Well, we get one right out of the gate this time.
There are a lot of questions, as always. How can the Bucs do with Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Jameis Winston for the first three games? Can the defense actually stop anyone, unlike last year? (Vita Vea and Brent Grimes will not play in New Orleans.) Will Todd Monken keep calling the plays, or will Dirk Koetter re-take control?
I would love to see an amazing turnaround this season to prove the doubters wrong. No one outside of us diehards thinks Tampa Bay’s going to do anything this year. That includes Vegas; trust me, I was just there last week, and saw the long odds we’re facing. But beating the Saints in the opener would be a great start.
So come along for the ride, and I’ll have a few things to say about the game Sunday night, win or lose.
It looks like the Bucs are ready to get this party started.
There was a lot to like in the so-called “dress rehearsal” preseason game Friday night against the Lions. Tampa Bay lost, but as usual in preseason, ignore the final score. The Buccaneers, for the most part, kicked the Lions’ butts while the starters for both teams were in there.
Peyton Barber is going to be the starting running back on opening day in the Superdome. There’s no doubt about that. He’s looked impressive through three games, while Ronald Jones has struggled. Jones did catch a nice deep ball down the left sideline, but he’s largely been ineffective running the ball.
There’s been more good than bad from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will start the season while Jameis Winston serves his suspension. Jameis has also played well so far. Heck, the same can be said of third-stringer Ryan Griffin.
Special teams? Adam Humphries, are you serious? I know it wasn’t the 2013 Iron Bowl, but it’s rare for any Buccaneers to return any kick for a touchdown under any circumstances.
If I do have a question mark, it’s the defense (shocking!) Yes, I know there are a lot of injuries, including first-round pick Vita Vea. But I get the impression that the overhauled defensive line isn’t really gelling together yet. And then there’s the secondary, which is still giving up big plays (but not a lot of points.) Dirk Koetter says Chris Conte is better than you think. Hey coach: we the fans beg to differ.
I know it’s hard to get excited over games that don’t count. But the Bucs sure look like a much better team than the one that went 5-11 a year ago. A note to my readers: I will not be blogging about the final preseason game unless there’s a significant development. The fourth exhibition game is the least meaningful of them all. Wake me up in two weeks in New Orleans.
Admittedly, I don’t do much with the NFL Draft when it happens, mostly because I don’t follow much college football on the national level. So, when the Buccaneers draft someone, more often than not I say, “who?”
That said, as I look over who Tampa Bay picked over the last few days, it looks like they’ve done a decent job addressing their most pressing needs. First-round pick Vita Vea provides much-needed help up front. When I wrote about his selection the other night, I said I hoped the Bucs would address their awful secondary with the remaining picks. Well, three of their next four picks are either cornerbacks or safeties. And RB Ronald Jones could…. could be the heir apparent to Doug Martin.
We’ll see how it all plays out. But it looks like Jason Licht did pretty well, at least on paper.
After a disappointing 5-11 season, the Buccaneers need help in a lot of areas. Among the biggest needs – the defensive line and the secondary. With their first pick in this year’s draft, they addressed the former in a big way.
The key word here is…. big.
Vita Vea is a 347-pound defensive lineman from Washington. 347 pounds! The Bucs traded down from #7 to #12 (via Buffalo) to get him. Put him in the mix with Gerald McCoy and free agent pickup Beau Allen, and the recipe is there for a unit that may actually lay a finger on the quarterback. Tampa Bay was dead last in sacks last year.
So, what about the early reaction on social media? Well, it’s mixed. It seems a lot of fans were hoping the Bucs would get a stud to help in the secondary. Me? I’m okay with the pick, as long as the use their three picks in the second round to do something about the worst pass defense in the NFL. If they don’t…. well, you don’t want to know how I’ll feel.