WOOHOO, WHAT A WIN!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to brush off that depressing debacle against the Giants last week and snag a conference road win against one of the best teams in the league in the 3-0 Rams on Sunday. Even though they gave up 500 yards passing and 40 points to Jared Goff and the Rams, the Bucs were able to score a franchise-record 55 points, and the defense created enough turnovers to pull this win out.
I’ll admit it. After being an eye witness to the absolute bed shitting that was that Giants game, I did not think the Bucs would travel all the way across the country and beat the defending NFC champs. I was wrong. This team put that ugly loss behind them and went into L.A. with a chip on their shoulder. This team bounced back in a BIG way, and THAT is what good teams do. They have done that twice so far this season. Now if they could only learn how to win the games they’re supposed to win, they’ll really be headed in the right direction.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
The Win – After suffering an embarrassing loss at home to an 0-2 Giants team, the Bucs bounced back with a surprising road win in Los Angeles against the 3-0 Rams to get back to a 2-2 record for the season. It was a “must-win” scenario with another road test against the Saints next week before heading to London, Tennessee, and Seattle for their next 3 games. For whatever reason, the Buccaneers always seem to play well in the New Orleans Superdome, so hopefully, they can steal another one from a Saints team who is now 2-0 without Drew Brees and 3-1 leading the NFC South division.
The QB – Jameis Winston had one of the best games of his young career against a pretty good Rams defense finishing 28 of 41 (68%) for 385 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Jameis has improved each week under Bruce Arians as he continues to learn this new system and is now 87 of 139 (62%) for 1,167 yards with 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions this season.
The Run Game – The Bucs rushing attack continued it’s success against a very stout Rams defensive front finishing with 30 rushes for 88 yards. That’s only about 3 yards per carry on paper, but the Bucs ran the ball well when they needed to. Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones, both scored a touchdown, but Jones once again had the hot hand and received a bulk of the carries in this game finishing with 19 carries for 70 yards (3.7ypc). He also had a 25-yard run AND a 54-yard run called back on penalties, so his day could’ve been huge had it not been for those two questionable calls.
The Receivers – Jameis Winston completed 28 passes to 8 different receivers, and all but one of them averaged more than 11 yards per catch. Chris Godwin played out of his mind finishing with 12 catches for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mike Evans had a quiet first half since the Rams were double covering him, but he finished with 4 catches for 89 yards and one touchdown where,z he was finally left in single coverage, and he smoked Marcus Peters for a 67-yard score. Through 4 games, Godwin now has 26 catches for 386 yards and 4 touchdowns while Evans has 18 catches for 368 yards and 4 touchdowns. They’re “on pace” for 104 catches/1,544 yards/16 touchdowns and 72 catches/1,472 yards/16 touchdowns respectively.
The Run Defense– For the third week in a row, this Bucs defense has faced one of the top running backs in the NFL…and SHUT THEM DOWN! Week 2 was Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, who had 16 carries for 37 yards. Week 3 was the Giants Saquon Barkley, who had 8 carries for 10 yards. And Week 4 was the Rams Todd Gurley, who finished with 5 carries for 16 yards. The Bucs defense is now sitting at #1 in rushing defense with just 59 yards per game allowed. In these last 3 weeks, they’ve given up 63 yards on 29 carries from three of the top backs in the league.
The Shaq Attack – Bucs outside linebacker and pass rusher extraordinaire Shaq Barrett continued his dominant season, finishing with another sack, an interception and a forced fumble that led to the final scoop and score to seal the game. He now leads the league with 9 sacks this season. In second place is the Browns Myles Garrett with 6 sacks. Even though it’s still early yet, his name is being brought up in Defensive Player of the Year talks. After this Week 4 game, he now has 20 tackles, 10 QB hits, 9 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception, and 3 passes defended.
The O-line – Besides running the ball pretty well again this week, the Bucs offensive line protected Jameis Winston against Aaron Donald and the boys only giving up 2 sacks and 4 QB hits on 43 dropbacks. Those sacks were by veteran Clay Matthews and Sebastian Joseph-Day. Not Donald. Not Fowler. Not Brockers. And not Ebukam. They gave Winston enough time to throw for a season-high 385 yards and 4 touchdowns against a Rams secondary full of money chasing mercenaries like Aquib Talib, Marcus Peters and Eric Weddle. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the more this group can stay healthy and play together, the better they’ll be. And the better this o-line is, the better this offense will be too. And bonus, NO PENALTIES committed by the o-line against the Rams!
The Kicker – Rookie kicker Matt Gay missed a game-winning chip shot field goal from 34-yards last week against the Giants and had to be escorted by police to his car after the game because some jackass Bucs fans were making threats on his life. What did he do in response to that? Oh, not much. All he did was make both field goal attempts, one from 58-yards, and ALL seven of his extra-point attempts against the Rams on the road. Hats off the kid for bouncing back with a strong performance after he gutted the home crowd a week ago.
The Turnovers – The Bucs won this game because the offense was scoring points and the defense was causing turnovers. They intercepted the Rams Jared Goff three times (Barrett, David, and Whitehead) and also forced (Barrett) and recovered (Suh) a fumble that was returned for a touchdown to seal the game. Winston did throw one interception that Marcus Peters returned for a score, but the Bucs won the overall turnover battle which won them this game.
The Buccaholics – Once again the Buccaneers fan group from California, the Buccaholics, showed up in full force to cheer the Bucs on to a victory on the west coast. Before they painted the Coliseum with red jerseys and Bucs flags, they hosted an epic tailgate party where Buccaneers COO Brian Ford AND the legendary Hall of Famer Warren Sapp stopped by for a visit. This group ALWAYS represents Buc Nation well, and they deserve a big shoutout!
The Return – With Week 4 in the books, it means that cornerback and special teams superstar Ryan Smith is eligible to return to the team. It’s unclear what roster move the Bucs will make to open a spot for him, but his addition brings some much-needed experience and depth to the Bucs young CB group.
The Secondary – I’ve got to admit, I was so happy with this win that it was hard to find “BAD” and “UGLY” for this game. But if I had to choose something, the Bucs secondary would be one. They allowed Jared Goff to throw for a career-high 517 yards in this game. However, it was on 68 attempts even though he did complete 45 of those attempts (66%). For the second straight week, this secondary allowed two 100-yard receivers in the same game. In this game, Robert Woods finished with 13 catches for 164 yards, and Cooper Kupp had 9 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Cooks added 6 catches for 71 yards. Todd Gurley added 7 catches for 54 yards. Gerald Everett added 5 catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. And Tyler Higbee added 4 catches for 41 yards. The good news is that the Bucs only allowed Goff to throw two touchdowns while picking him off three times. The bad news is that the Bucs passing defense is ranked 31st in the league. A big part of that is because they’re ranked 1st in rushing defense. Opposing teams just can’t run on this defense, so they have to be one dimensional and throw the football. They are also ranked 4th in Red Zone defense, 9th in third-down defense and 20th in total defense.
The Penalties – For whatever reason, penalties continue to be a problem for this team. They committed 12 more for 99 yards in this game against the Rams. The worst part is the timing of most of these penalties. Ronald Jones had 79 yards worth of runs called back for silly calls. The secondary, namely cornerback Carlton Davis, continues to be guilty of them. This team has to get this crap cleaned up soon. I’m really surprised that a Bruce Arians team can still be playing this undisciplined four games into the season. They got lucky that the Rams committed 13 penalties for 106 yards, which negated the mistakes the Bucs made. But their luck will run out eventually if they don’t get this fixed.
The GM – Sadly, Bucs general manager Jason Licht’s father passed away Saturday night. He was in Los Angeles when he got the phone call, so the Glazers told him to take their private jet back home to Nebraska to be with his family. After the game, the team FaceTimed with Licht and gave him the game ball dedicating the win to his dad, Ron. He was a big Nebraska fan and his favorite Cornhusker of all-time is Ndamukong Suh. It was only fitting that Suh was the one to seal the win for this team on Sunday.
The Schedule – I really couldn’t find anything “ugly” about this game, but I’ll talk about the upcoming schedule which isn’t pretty as I’ve touched on in previous weeks. This win in L.A. definitely helps, but the Bucs are still on the road for four of the next five weeks. They head to New Orleans for a Week 5 NFC South showdown with the Saints. This game isn’t as intimidating as it was a few weeks ago, before Drew Brees got hurt, but the Saints are now 2-0 with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, and the Superdome is always a tough place to play even though the Bucs typically play well there. Next up is the London trip for a “home game” (thanks NFL schedulers) against the Panthers, who are now 2-0 with second-year player Kyle Allen at quarterback. After the Bucs Week 7 bye, they travel to Nashville to play a Titans team that’s trying to find their identity. Then it’s another west coast road trip to Seattle to play an always dangerous Seahawk team. It’s a long stint on the road, but I’m feeling a little better about it after the win on Sunday. This team can win on the road. But as Bruce Arians said in his postgame presser, they just need to learn how to win at home.
The Injury – Unfortunately, the Bucs did have one injury in Sunday’s game. Reserve inside linebacker Jack Cichy suffered an elbow injury when a Rams player slammed him to the ground on a special teams play. At first, Cichy appeared to have broken his arm. Apparently, the injury isn’t that serious. He had an MRI on Monday morning to find out the extent of the damage, but for now, it appears to have been a dislocated elbow which will sideline him for 2-4 weeks.
As excited as I am about this win, I can’t help but wonder about this Buccaneers team. This season, they’re 2-0 on the road against two quality opponents, but they’re 0-2 at home against lesser teams. When this team shows up to play 60 minutes, they’re tough to beat. The problem has been that we never know if or when they will show up. Which team will it be next week in New Orleans? This team has kept us asking that question, what will this team do this week? At least it has been in the past. Hopefully, that is one part of the culture that is changing under Bruce Arians…consistency.
This team seems to be buying into Arians and Bowles systems. They seem to be starting to believe. Believe in those systems. Believe in themselves. Believe in each other. And believe that they’re going to win as long as they don’t beat themselves. This win was big for this young team. It could be a turning point. It could be just what they need to turn that corner. We saw how they responded to the big loss. Now we’ll see how they respond to this big win. Even without Drew Brees, the Saints will be a good litmus test. Arians always talks about “stacking wins”. Well, the Bucs will have an opportunity to do that this week in New Orleans. Can they do it? Can they pull out another improbable road win? Can they take over the first place spot in the division? We’ll see next Sunday.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!