Remembering back to sunnier days when the NFL schedule was released, the Buffalo Bills provided the last “big test” of the season.
As the season progressed that matchup didn’t change significance. The Bills had certainly had their struggles but would come into the game as one of the AFC contenders. Brady would be up against one of the best defensive units in the NFL, while Todd Bowles had to work out how to stop one of the most dynamic QBs in the league.
The first half showed just how good the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are. A systematic destruction of the Bills became uncomfortable viewing.
The rout was so complete that the Buccaneers decided that they had won the game 24-3 at halftime.
The only problem is that the Bills remembered that this isn’t Pop Warner, and the mercy rule doesn’t exist. The next 30 minutes was Buffalo slapping the Bucs around for daring to be so insolent.
For many veteran fans, we’d seen this tree before. Honestly, who else was expecting the Bills to march down the field and score the winning TD as time expired? Who could blame us for a fit of Pavlovian-induced anxiety? The script has happened so many times before that it was almost expected that we would lose.
Thankfully, the defensive unit held out to take the game to overtime. But holy smokes!
The arrival of Overtime seemed to reset the mood in Tampa. The Bucs woke up to the fact that they actually have to beat Buffalo to be awarded that W on the record. As Mike Evans lost the toss, such was his disgust that he didn’t even wait around to inform the officials which end they would take. The defense had a job to do.
And do it they did. Stopping Buffalo at their own 31 with a very efficient three-and-out, the Buccaneers were given the advantage and would likely need only one or two 1st downs. Until the punt put the Buccaneers on their own 6-yard line. A long field lay ahead of Tom Brady.
And that’s what really makes me grind my teeth about this team. They are easily the best team that’s ever played in Tampa and arguably the best team in the NFL.
But they just collectively switch off! It’s like they all forget how to play the game together. If this was the team in the Pre-Brady era, the Buccaneers lose that game 99% of the time. Thankfully this team has so much individual talent that they will sometimes succeed despite themselves. I really hope that coaches and leaders in the locker room are holding their hands up and saying they didn’t do their job in the second half.
Now comes the stretch to the playoffs and a chance to beat up on some teams as a warmup. A chance to show that Sunday’s win was not an acceptable way to win.
A chance to be the Buccaneers that are reigning champions and still the best team in football. But hey, that’s just my two doubloons.