NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers FINALLY pulled together to play a complete game as a team on Sunday, and the result was a 45-17 sushifying (Yeah, I made that word up) of the Miami Dolphins in front of a packed and rowdy Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs offense ran like a well-oiled machine, and the dinged-up defense held their own as Tampa Bay put on their most dominating display of football for this young 2021 season. As you can imagine, there was plenty of “GOOD” in this game, but I was able to nitpick and find a couple of “BAD” and even an “UGLY” about this one. Since we have a short week this week, let’s get into this game so that we can put it to bed and move on to Philly.
This was the Bucs offense that we’ve been waiting for this season. They finished with 558 total yards (437 passing, 121 rushing), 33 first downs, and 71 plays for over 33 minutes in time of possession. The 558 total yards are the most in franchise history for a home game, and the 33 first downs are tied for most in the league this season (with Tennessee) but also the most in franchise history for a non-overtime game. Leonard Fournette and Giovanni Bernard both averaged more than 5 yards per carry, while Ronald Jones averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Mike Evans and Antonio Brown both finished with over 100 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. The Bucs are on pace to have three 1,000 yard receivers this season, which has only been done five times in NFL history. But they’re also on pace to have three receivers with 1,000 yards AND 10+ touchdowns, which has only been done once by the 2004 Indianapolis Colts with Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokley.
The Bucs have now scored 45+ points five times in their 25 games with Tom Brady, matching the number of times they did it in their 44 seasons before he arrived in Tampa Bay. They’ve scored 30+ points a whopping 15 times in those 25 games, which seems to be their “magic number“. They’ve won 19 straight games when scoring that much under Bruce Arians. They have been taking care of the football in addition to scoring at will. This was their third straight game without a turnover, matching their previous record set last season. Tom Brady also set a new franchise record in this game, going 203 consecutive passes without an interception. In fact, this was the first time in 26 games that the Dolphins defense did not force at least one turnover.
Last week in New England, the Bucs left a ton of points on the field by performing poorly in the red zone, going 1 of 4 scoring touchdowns. Against the Dolphins they were much better, scoring TDs on 4 of 5 trips, not including the kneel down to end the game. It was good to see, especially since Rob Gronkowski was still out.
The Buccaneers were outstanding on third down Sunday afternoon, both offensively AND defensively. The offense was 8 of 11 for a 72.7% rate, which is the second-highest rate in franchise history, AND they had five drives that lasted eight plays or more. Their best rate was another game against these same Dolphins back in 1997 when they went 7 of 9 for a 77.8% rate. The defense was impressive as well, holding Miami to just 2 of 7 for a 29% rate.
The 44-year-old played like a kid half his age on Sunday, finishing 30 of 41 for 411 yards and 5 touchdowns. The 411 yards is his highest total as a Buccaneer and the second 400+ yard game in red and pewter. It’s also the 12th time he’s done in his career. The 5 tuddies was the ninth time in his career that he’s thrown for 5+ touchdowns and the third since coming to Tampa. His passer rating for this game was 144.4, and no other quarterback in the league has finished with a 140+ passer rating than Tom Brady. And with as much football as the old man has played, this was the first time in his 22 year career that he had 400+ yards and 5+ touchdowns in a single game. He has now had two games with 5 touchdowns in this young season. The last time he did that was in 2007 when he finished with 4,800 yards and 50 touchdowns for the Patriots. With an NFL leading 1,767 yards and 15 touchdowns, he’s on pace this year to throw for 6,000+ yards and 50+ touchdowns. “Old” my ass. Age is just a number.
AB finished this game with a team-high 7 catches for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was his 141st game in a row with a reception, the longest active streak in the NFL. This was his second game this season with multiple scores, which ties him with teammate Mike Evans for the most such games since the 2010 season. He also caught the 900th ball of his career in this game, making him the fastest player in NFL history to do it in just 143 games. Former Indianapolis Colt Marvin Harrison held the record previously at 149 games.
Jamel Dean & Ross Cockrell
With Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting still out with injuries, the Bucs welcomed back Jamel Dean with open arms; and he didn’t disappoint, finishing this game with 5 tackles, a fourth-quarter interception, and two of the Bucs three passes defended. Cockrell also made his presence known by coming up with some key defensive plays late in the game.
The Officiating, Again
Once again, the Bucs were on the receiving end of some terrible calls that affected the game. Luckily the game was so far out of reach that they didn’t affect the outcome, but this has been a running theme so far this season. In this game, there were three calls on the Bucs that I considered “questionable“, and all three led to the Dolphins’ only points of the day.
The first was a 21-yard pass to Preston Williams on the Dolphins opening drive on 2nd & 8 from the Miami 27 yard line. It was caught, but it appeared as though Jamel Dean forced him out of bounds before he could get both feet down in bounds. It was ruled a catch on the field and upheld, keeping the drive alive and leading to an eventual field goal.
The second was also in the first quarter on the Dolphins’ second possession. On 2nd & 10 from the Tampa Bay 41 yard line, Ross Cockrell was called for weak pass interference on a 12-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle. It led to a first down at the Bucs’ 29-yard line and a 24-yard touchdown pass to Myles Gaskin.
The third was a really sketchy pass interference call on Richard Sherman in the third quarter. It happened on 3rd & 1 from the Tampa Bay 17 yard line with a pass attempt to Preston Williams. The “penalty” occurred on the 1-yard line, giving the Dolphins 1st & goal from there, which led to their final touchdown of the game.
The Opposing Offense
It appears that Buccaneers opponents have figured out that the best way to attack this defense is to get the ball out of the QB’s hands as fast as possible with screens, quick slants, and quick outs. Teams haven’t been able to run on the Bucs so far this season. Miami only attempted nine runs in this game, finishing with just 39 yards. The answer? A quick passing game. It does two things: gets the ball out quickly, which negates the Buccaneers pass rush and their blitzes; and it attacks the soft zone coverage that the Bucs have been forced to play with all of the injuries to their secondary. It’s frustrating to watch as a fan. The dinks and dunks down the field are annoying, especially when the Bucs defense has trouble stopping it.
The injury bug, once again, jumped up and bit the Bucs linebacker Lavonte David went down after Ndamukong Suh rolled over his ankle. The initial diagnosis was a possible high ankle sprain, which could cause the veteran to miss 4-6 weeks. However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport reported on Monday afternoon that he suffered a lower ankle sprain which could be more of a week-to-week injury.
The Lack O’ Sacks
“Getting home“, as Bruce Arians says, was once again an issue for the Bucs defensive line. It’s been that way all season. Lots of pressure and lots of QB hits, but no sacks. Tampa Bay finished this game with 3 sacks but had a chance for at least 9 or 10 against Miami. Shaq Barrett had 1.5 sacks but had Jacoby Brissett in his grasp on two other occasions and couldn’t bring him down. Jason Pierre-Paul missed a couple of opportunities, Anthony Nelson missed one, Ndamukong Suh missed one, and rookie Joe Tryon-Shoyinka missed a couple early on in the game. What could’ve been a HUGE day for the defense ended up being an okay day. Part of it is the way offensive coordinators are scheming against the Bucs with quick passes and screens. However, Arians says that the front four simply need to “get in the weight room“.
Tampa Bay beat Miami 45-17 on Sunday. It was a great team win, according to both Bruce Arians and Tom Brady. But that’s what you expect really good teams to do to teams that aren’t so good. The offense was outstanding. The defense was decent despite missing half of their starting secondary and losing their starting linebacker. This was the most complete team win of this young season. Now, they just need to build on it.
The Bucs don’t have much of a chance to celebrate this one, though. They have a short week before traveling to Philly to play the 2-3 Eagles on Thursday Night Football. I know it’s early, but this has the feel of a “must-win” game to me. Win, and they get to 5-1 with a home game against a not-so-good Chicago Bears team next week. Win that one, and they’ll be 6-1 heading to New Orleans to play the Saints before going to their Week 9 bye. Hopefully, they can come out of that bye week healthy and ready for another run at the playoffs.
Until then, as always; GO BUCS!!!