Now that’s more like it!
Tom Brady likes to say, “Wins are hard to come by in the NFL.” That’s funny coming from a guy who’s 226-67 during his career. If wins are hard, it’s even harder to beat the same team twice in one season. But that’s exactly what the Buccaneers did at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. Much to the disappointment of the 5,000 or so fans in attendance, the Bucs statistically dominated the Carolina Panthers on their way to a 46-23 win to get to 7-3 for the season.
It was nice to see this team bounce back after getting embarrassed on primetime Sunday Night Football last week. However, I’m still not sold on this team just yet. They are still too inconsistent for me to call them “GOOD” but there was a bunch of “GOOD” things about this game. There were also some “BAD” and even “UGLY” things about it too, but at least the “GOOD” outweighed those this week.
Ronald Muthaf#@kin Jones
During the Bucs’ first offensive possession of this game, Ronald Jones II caught a short pass from Tom Brady and proceeded to fumble it giving the ball right back to the Panthers. They would go on to score a touchdown. I thought for sure that was the last we would see of Jones, at least until the second half. But Bruce Arians put him right back into the game on their next offensive series. He made the right decision. Jones ended up with 23 carries for 192 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry thanks to his 98-yard breakaway run about midway through the third quarter. It was the longest offensive touchdown in franchise history. It was the longest offensive play in the NFL since the 2018 season. And he became just the fourth player with a run of 98 yards or more in NFL history. His 192 yards was the fifth-best rushing performance in Buccaneers history.
In 10 games this season, Jones now has 143 carries for 730 yards averaging 5.1 yards per carry to go along with 5 touchdowns. He’s on pace for nearly 1,200 yards this year, which would be a career-high.
Tom Muthaf#@kin Brady
After a terrible outing against the Saints last week, Tom Brady bounced back in a BIG way finishing 28 of 39 (72%) for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. He is now 8-1 in games following a loss of 20+ points. He made some incredible throws in this game. There was the lofty touch pass to Mike Evans, the laser between two defenders to Chris Godwin, and the perfectly placed touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. It’s impressive what the old man can still do when he’s given the time. Luckily, the makeshift offensive line gave it to him in this game.
Ryan Muthaf#@kin Succop
I hope I don’t jinx him, but man it sure is nice to have a reliable kicker in Tampa Bay (knock on wood). Succop made all eight of the kicks that he got off, including four field goals and four extra points. He did have one extra point blocked, but that wasn’t on him. He is now 16 of 18 on field goals and 26 of 27 on extra points. He hasn’t missed a field goal since Week 4 against the Chargers and that missed extra point was against the Saints in Week 1.
Justin Muthaf#@kin Watson
After being a healthy scratch last week against the Saints, “J-Wat” was active for this game and made one of the most important plays of the day. Late in the 3rd quarter with the Bucs clinging to a 27-17 lead, the defense made a stop and forced Carolina to punt. They attempted what looked like a punter draw on a fake punt, but Watson wasn’t fooled and stuffed it out tackling the Panthers punter for a loss. It actually counted as a sack in the stat book, which was the first of his career. He didn’t have much of an impact on offense, but that special team’s play was HUGE and helped energize the team to close out this game.
AQ Muthaf#@kin Shipley & Ryan Muthaf#@kin Jensen
Starting left guard Ali Marpet missed his second straight game being under concussion protocol. Last week against the Saints, the Bucs decided to start reserve lineman Joe Haeg in his place. That didn’t work out so well. This week, they moved center Ryan Jensen to left guard and had veteran lineman AQ Shipley start at center. It seemed to work much better. The o-line only gave up one sack and kept Tom Brady clean for most of the day AND the Bucs rushed for a season-high 210 yards. These two opened up that hole on Ronald Jones 98 yard touchdown run and were a BIG reason why the Bucs offense had so much success on Sunday.
The Muthaf#@kin Offense
Speaking of the offense’s success, they had a HUGE game against the Panthers finishing with 544 total yards, the most ever by the Bucs in a win. This was just the 13th 500-yard game in franchise history and the second under Bruce Arians. They rushed for 210 yards to go along with Tom Brady’s 341 passing yards. It was the 28th 200-yard rushing game in team history, but the first in four years.
Tampa’s offense had the ball ten times in this game and scored on nine of those possessions. They never punted. The only drive where they didn’t score was their first when Ronald Jones fumbled it and Carolina recovered. The Bucs outgained the Panthers 544 to 187 in total offense. The 357-yard differential was the largest in Buccaneers’ history. They scored 29 points in the second half alone, the fourth most ever by the Bucs in a second half, and just one point shy of the most by any team this season.
The Muthaf#@kin Win
This was the Bucs first “must-win” game of the year. Not just because they needed to bounce back from that embarrassing loss last week, but because they needed it period. With two tough games coming up against the 6-3 Rams on Monday night and the 8-1 Chiefs the week after, it would’ve been tough entering those matchups after losing two straight. The Bucs are now 7-3 for the sixth time in team history. The only time they’ve had a better record in their first 10 games was when they were 8-2 in their Super Bowl-winning season. The last time they started 7-3 was in 2010, but they lost three of their final six games to finish 10-6 and missed the playoffs. However, over the last five years, 14 teams have started 7-3 and 13 of them made the playoffs.
The DJ Moore Dilemma
For some reason, Panthers wide receiver DJ Moore continues to give the Bucs defense trouble. In the two games, he’s played Tampa this season, he’s had 12 catches for 216 yards and a touchdown while averaging a whopping 20 yards per catch. Both games are the most productive he’s had this year and account for 1/3 of his receiving yards this season.
At the start of the 4th quarter, Panthers return man Trenton Cannon broke loose for a 98-yard kickoff return from about 3 yards deep in the endzone. Sean Murphy-Bunting was able to chase him down and tackle him just inside the 5-yard line. It was unusual to see a breakdown in the Bucs kick coverage unit, but it happens every now and then. Luckily, it didn’t do any real damage, even though the Panthers did punch it in two plays later. Hopefully, they learned from it and get it corrected so that it doesn’t happen again.
The 1st Half Defense
For the second straight game, this Buccaneers defense gave up 14 points in the 1st quarter of the game. They allowed Teddy Bridgewater to go 10 of 10 for 93 yards and gave up 116 yards in the 1st quarter alone. However, after giving up 17 points in the first half, the Bucs D clamped down and tightened up allowing Carolina to gain just 71 yards on their final 33 plays.
Boy 7-3 sure sounds good, but you know what sounds even better?
The Bucs may have looked pretty good against the 3-6 Panthers, but they have the 6-3 Rams coming to Tampa next week for a primetime Monday Night Football matchup of two of the top teams in the NFC. That game could have serious playoff implications. The Packers and Saints sit on top of the conference at 7-2 with the Bucs just a half-game behind. Then you have the Cardinals, Rams, and Seahawks all sitting at 6-3. As it sits right now, the Bucs have the top wildcard spot because the Eagles are leading the NFC East with a 3-5 record.
Nevermind that. We’re getting way ahead of ourselves by talking playoffs after Week 10. I guess it’s just exciting to even be thinking it at this point of the season for a change. However, it’s one week at a time. And this week, it’s a really good Rams team. They took a step in the right direction with a big division road performance in a “must-win” game against the Panthers. Now let’s see if they can really get some momentum going with another win next week.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!