There’s a reason that we say “It’s a Bucs life!”. There’s no other way to put it. There’s no other way to explain how it feels to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. The best analogy I can come up with is to walk up to a brick wall and continuously bash your head against it in hopes that it will eventually stop hurting. That’s what it’s like watching this team week in and week out, year after year.
Yet every single season, we fans come back to training camp expecting this team to finally right the ship and start winning again only to be disappointed when it sinks again instead. We act surprised, but why should we be? It happens every season. We enter each year with these high hopes and expectations and aspirations of winning another Super Bowl, but this team always dashes those dreams within the first few games of the season. It happens all the time. Yet we fans are still shocked. We’re still pissed. We’re still bitching. But you know what else we are?
We’re still here.
We’re still on board.
We’re still on the krewe.
We’re still fighting and going down with the ship.
We can’t help it. It’s who we are as Bucs fans.
THAT is why we say “It’s a Bucs life!”.
We have seen this team be the losingest (yes, I know it’s not a word) franchise in team sports, but we’ve also seen them win a Super Bowl.
We’ve seen curses.
We’ve seen a revolving door of head coaches and general managers.
We’ve seen “mediocre” players leave Tampa only to become superstars on other teams.
We’ve been through 0-26.
We’ve been through just about everything with this team.
We’ve felt every kind of emotion watching this team.
We’ve said every kind of cuss word known watching this team.
We’ve been there and done that with this team.
We have a love/loathe relationship with this team.
We’re just Bucs fans living a Bucs life.
And here we are once again. After waiting 8 long months for Buccaneer football to return, Bucs fans finally walked into Raymond James Stadium with the excitement and anticipation of ushering in the new Bruce Arians era against a San Francisco 49ers team that only won two games all of last season. That excitement didn’t last very long as Jameis Winston and his offense sputtered to 295 total yards with four turnovers. What should’ve been an easy home-opening win for the 2019 season, turned into a depressing loss in front of a dejected home crowd.
Sure, I was mad. Sure, I took to social media bashing the team and our quarterback. I was upset. I was angry. I was disappointed. I felt let down. Hell, I still feel that way. That loss was inexcusable. It was pathetic. I just hope it wasn’t the beginning of a pattern for this season.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
The Defense – It looks as though defense may be back in Tampa Bay. Todd Bowles new system held the Niners to just 256 total yards of offense. They were only 5 of 13 on third down and only averaged 3.1 yards per carry running the football. They held quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to just 6 yards per attempt. They held running back Matt Breida to just 2.8 yards per carry. They held tight end George Kittle to just 58 yards receiving. They held the Niners to just 98 yards rushing. They held the Niners offense to three field goals and one long touchdown pass despite being put in terrible field position all game long. Linebacker Lavonte David looked good. Safety Jordan Whitehead looked good. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves looked good with his pick-six. The young secondary looked good. The d-line not only shut down the run, but got some decent pressure on Garoppolo. It was a promising start to the Bowles defense for this team.
The Run Game – The Bucs may have only finished with 121 yards rushing in that game, but they averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Running back Ronald Jones finished with 13 carries for 75 yards and a 5.8 yards per carry average. He only had 23 rushes for 44 yards, all of last season. Peyton Barber even averaged 4.1 yards per carry in this game. That’s pretty solid running against a strong front four like the Niners.
The Kicker – It looks as though the Bucs kicking curse may be over. Rookie kicker Matt Gay hit both extra points and his only field goal attempt of the game from 31 yards out. Hopefully, the kid with the big leg can keep it up and give this team the reliable kicker they need for years to come.
The Quarterback – This was one of the worst games that I’ve seen Jameis Winston play as a Buccaneer. It wasn’t just the three picks. Bruce Arians even said that two of the three weren’t even his fault. He started the game off 1 of 6 for 3 yards. He was overthrowing receivers. He was underthrowing receivers. He was making poor choices. He was making poor throws. He was not acting like this was his fifth season AND a contract year. He finished the game 20 of 36 for 194 yards and a 55% completion rate with 1 touchdown and those 3 interceptions. Unfortunately for him and all of us, the one pick that was on him was the one that hurt the most. Down 6 points with 2:11 left in the fourth quarter, the Bucs tried to run a screen pass on first down. Running back Dare Ogunbowale got hung up by his own blockers and never made it out into open space. Instead of throwing it into the dirt and moving on to second down, like a fifth-year veteran should know to do, Winston threw the ball up for grabs and it was intercepted and returned for a game-sealing touchdown. Inexcusable and unacceptable. I’ve always been part of the #ThatsMyQB crowd with Jameis, so hopefully, he learns from it and moves on. If he doesn’t, then he won’t be our QB much longer.
The Receivers – The Bucs receiving group that Mike Evans said he would “put up against any secondary in the world” only managed 13 catches for 131 yards total between Evans, Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman, OJ Howard and Cam Brate. Godwin led the entire group with just 3 catches for 53 yards. Evans, who was battling an illness, only managed 2 catches for 28 yards. The Bucs running backs had 7 catches for 63 yards between the three of them. This group needs to do a better job of getting open and helping out their quarterback if this offense is going to reach it’s potential.
The Special Teams – Rookie kicker Matt Gay hit on all of his kicks, but he was the only bright spot for this group. Punter Bradley Pinion had a punt blocked early that led to good field position for the Niners. At one point, the Bucs lined up with 10 players on the field for a punt return. Needless to say, the return got zero yards. The returners Bobo Wilson on punts and TJ Logan on kickoffs didn’t do anything to get the fans out of their seats. I thought this unit would be second to none, but they need to get their heads out of their butts if they want to make some noise.
The Loss – So I kept seeing people saying on social media that “It’s only one game” and “It’s just Week 1” or “There’s still 15 games left”; here’s what I say to them: “Look at this schedule” – “Just look at it!” This “one loss” could turn into a losing streak quick. Let me explain. At 0-1, they’re going into Carolina to face a dangerous Panthers team on Thursday Night Football. So what if they lose that game? Now they’re 0-2 coming back home to play the Giants. Should be an easy win there in Week 3, right? Well, we thought the Niners game was an easy win too. What if they lose to New York? Now they’re 0-3 and heading to L.A. to play the Rams, then New Orleans to play the Saints. Now they’re 0-5 headed to London to play the Panthers again before their bye in Week 7. The next two games after their bye are in Tennessee and Seattle. Do you see where I’m going with this? The loss in Week 1 was bad. A loss in Week 2 would be devastating. A loss in Week 3 would be catastrophic. If they don’t win these next two games, they could be staring at an 0-8 or 1-7 record right in the face. It’s not a good thing to have “must-win” games this early in the season, but that’s exactly what the Bucs have over the next two weeks. Let’s hope that I’m just blowing this “one game” out of proportion and this team can pull out a win on the road against a division opponent.
The Offensive Line – Okay, maybe it wasn’t “ugly” but it wasn’t pretty either. They did give up 3 sacks in the game, but considering the defensive line that they were facing it’s not terrible. As a matter of fact, after watching the film Jameis had a clean pocket on most occasions. They did run block well, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry. Everyone likes to bash left tackle Donovan Smith, but he had a decent game against some pretty good edge rushers in Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and DeForest Buckner. Left guard Ali Marpet and center Ryan Jensen had pretty solid games. Second-year right guard Alex Cappa didn’t have a bad game, but he did go through some typical growing pains. And veteran right tackle Demar Dotson had a good game except for the two holding penalties that cost Cam Brate both of his touchdown catches. And speaking of tight ends, they need to do a better job of blocking up front if this team is going to have success. The hope here is that this group continues to improve and gel together as a unit and that everyone stays healthy.
In closing, the start of the 2019 Buccaneers season did not go the way that any of us wanted or thought that it would. Or maybe it did. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at what happened. Maybe it’s just the way it goes here in Tampa. After all, it is a Bucs life. But how do we learn to temper our expectations? How can we stop going into each season with high hopes and aspirations?
No really, I’m seriously asking how to do it because I don’t know-how.
I don’t know how to NOT be excited about Buccaneer football. I don’t know how to NOT have high expectations for this team. I don’t know how to enter a season NOT expecting a Super Bowl. I’m a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. It’s just what we do. Even though I’m still pissed about Sunday’s loss, I’m sure I’ll wake up Thursday morning happy for another Bucs Gameday and hoping for a Bucs win.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!