Brady Haters (hard to believe)
Many doubted that Tom Brady could make much of a difference in Tampa. Some believed that Commissioner Goodell should have been waiting at Tampa International to hand Brady the Lombardi trophy as he stepped off the plane. Somewhere between those two points lies the truth. It’s true that until last Thursday’s game, Brady’s quarterback rating had been getting better each week. Then came Da Bears in their cave. Brady finished the day seeing his rating drop to 86.7 from a solid 117.0 in the Chargers game a few days before. On the season, he’s looking at 95.64 as his rating over 5 games. At the moment of writing this article, Brady is second in yards passing and tied for 3rd in passing touchdowns. It is doubtful that Brady will throw 50 or more scores (Which is his best). Thirty-Nine, which is his second-best, is obtainable. Brady has surpassed 5,000 yds just once in his career. It is doable this year as well. It’s only been five games with Brady, so cut him a little slack. Where were we last season after five games?
Most of the mistake and breakdowns can be fixed (How good is Chicago really)
I said all that to say this. With the injuries we had going into the Chicago game and then adding Vea to the mix, it’s going to take some guys stepping up to bridge the gap. So what is it, exactly, that the Bucs must do to bridge the gap and get another win streak started? Some of it is pretty obvious. First and foremost, this team’s biggest problem that is probably the least fixable is the Offensive Line. The penalties are, of course, fixable. But, the lack of a consistent left tackle is not as long as Donovan Smith resides there. There are some good players along our offensive front; Smith isn’t one of them. He’s one of the most inconsistent offensive left tackles in the game today. One game he will play very well and have no penalties, and the next, he is flagged for holding, offsides more than once, and allows a sack or three. He’s a lot like Jameis Winston in that he plays very well at times, but is unable to stop the mistakes. Thursday though, Smith wasn’t even close to the only one getting flagged. Eleven penalties for one hundred and nine yards the wrong way just won’t get it done against even just decent teams sometimes. The Bears are now 4-1, sounds impressive, but let’s look at that a bit closer. Their first two wins were over Gridiron Monsters Detroit and the Giants by a grand total of 8 points. Then they beat that always impressive, consistently awesome Atlanta Falcons by 4. Three games, each won by 4. Then they played what looks to be a very good team in the Colts, and lost by 8, scoring only 11 points. Then they beat us in a game we pretty much gave them by just one point. I believe we play Chicago again in four or five weeks, and we demolish them if mostly healthy. But, when they aren’t in your division, you don’t get that second chance unless you cross them in the playoffs. That’s not going to happen; I believe they will be extremely fortunate to win three more games finishing out. Carolina, Detroit, and maybe Houston, or they pull an upset somewhere along the way.
The long week leading up to Packers Game (A needed breather)
The Bucs, on the other hand, can use this schedule (long week; 10 days) until Aaron Rodgers and company visit Dale Mabry to heal up a bit and take a breath. Get their bearings, understand where and why they failed on Thursday. If you watched Brady at the end of the Bears loss, he wasn’t a happy camper; to say the least. He looked pretty pissed to me; like a fella that knew we just gave one away. In a championship/deep playoff run season, games like the one Thursday are scant. Sometimes a game like this can refocus a team and can be looked at at the end of the season as just what the doctor ordered. Tim Tebow’s, “The Promise Speech”, after an upset Gator loss to Ole Miss comes to mind as Gators went on to win the 2008 National Title. I’m not expecting Brady to give that type of speech. I’ll bet though that he addressed the team and had plenty to say. For the Patriots to have won six Super-Bowls, it took excellence from not only Brady but the rest of the team as well. He’s used to getting that more often than not from those around him, and I think it shook him a bit to see players around him shooting ourselves in the foot so many times. The stupid mistakes have got to be cleaned up, players must stay focused during games, become accountable, and stop the weak efforts that lead to penalties, and blocking breakdowns, and coverage lapses.
Defense shares responsibility (Young backfield)
The Defense, especially the (here we go again) backfield, must also cut it with the mental errors and breakdowns in coverage. We have the talent back there to get the job done and then some. It’s not a lack of talent like it has been for years, so there really are no excuses. Talented, yet youth is everywhere back there, and that probably best sums up our situation going forward. Youth doesn’t excuse poor play when it’s execution and mental lapses that abound. Overall, the defense only allowed 20 points, while certainly not dominating, it is a number our offense should be able to eclipse with minimal effort. That is to say, that effort and subtract the penalties and blocking breakdowns. I predicted our defensive backfield to become a force this season. Clearly, this is a fluid situation with that group, and who they are at week 17 should be much different than week 5, let’s hope by a lot. Vea’s absence will be felt, but we are in better shape to absorb that loss than we were the last time he was out for an extended time. We have players that can step in and contribute positively. You don’t just easily replace a huge presence like Vita Vea. Having anyone that can step into that position/role and play even effectively is huge. Let’s wish him a speedy recovery and the emergence of his replacement until then.
So that’s about it. An overall refocusing of the team with a shout at the O-Line (D. Smith) and the D-Backfield and concentrating on mental errors and the lack of execution. Getting healthy, Jones has been playing great (Like I predicted he would) first time back to back one hundred yard games. Leonard Fournette will be back, and though he will cut into Jones numbers, we need that second part of the one-two punch. He brings an extra headache for opposing defenses and is a welcomed return. Ryan Jensen is expected to play in week 6. Chris Godwin was out the last two games and is possibly set to return to practice this week as well. Arians had this to say about Godwin.
“It’s way too early!” – Arians said of projecting Godwin’s availability for the next game. “I’m hoping he can do something by next Thursday.”