THEY SAVED THEIR WORST FOR LAST!
Monday night’s pathetic performance by the Buccaneers showed EXACTLY what happens when an ill-prepared, poorly executing, badly coached team gets into the playoffs on a technicality. They get rolled. I said it all season. It was hard to be excited about this Bucs team “winning the division” and making the playoffs if they were just going to continue their inconsistent play into the postseason. I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, hoping that “new season/fresh start” thing would mean something to them. It obviously didn’t. The Dallas Cowboys proved they belonged in the playoffs, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers simply proved they were the playoff posers we knew they were. The 31-14 final score was closer than this game ever was.
The Bucs never had a chance.
Even though the defense came out firing on all cylinders forcing two straight three & outs by the Cowboys, they quickly fizzled out giving up scoring drives of 65 yards, 90 yards and 96 yards. And as for the Bucs offense well, they were par for the course. They had two possessions in the 1st quarter resulting in two three & outs consisting of 6 plays for 3 yards. They had three more drives in the 2nd quarter. The first ended with Tom Brady’s first redzone interception since 2019 (with the Patriots) on 2nd & goal from the Cowboys 5-yard line. He was apparently trying to throw the ball away through the back of the endzone, but didn’t get enough on it. The second drive went 6 plays for 22 yards, but ended with a punt. And the third drive went 6 plays for 25 yards to end the half. The Cowboys outgained the Bucs 246-120 in total yards on their way to an 18-0 halftime lead.
The rout was on.
The second half was more of the same. The Bucs defense gave up two more scoring drives of 81 yards and 66 yards, while the offense struggled to score on the Dallas defense. They had six possessions in the 3rd & 4th quarters. They scored two touchdowns, punted twice and turned the ball over on downs twice. It was not a good showing for Tom Brady and the offense. Byron Leftwich had a chance to possibly save his job IF the offense had been able to score with the Cowboys (But I doubt it!). Instead, his offense was once again boring, predictable and unimaginative and he refused to make adjustments where major adjustments were needed. Namely leaving left tackle Donovan Smith out there alone on an island versus Micah Parsons, who wreaked absolute havoc in this game. The results were a disappointing, but not surprising end to the Buccaneers 2022 season. So let’s take a look at my GOOD, BAD & UGLY from this game so that we can move on from this disaster of a season and start looking forward to next year.
Seriously. There was absolutely nothing redeeming or positive about this game. The Bucs came in as unprepared as they had been all season. The offense was just as pathetic as it had been all season. The defense was as inconsistent as it had been all season. The coaching and playcalling was as bad as it’s been all season. They were still making the same basic mental mistakes that they were making in Week 1, which is inexcusable and a testament to how bad this coaching staff is.
Again, seriously. The Bucs offense had no answer for and never tried to adjust to Micah Parsons who finished with 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits, 1 sack and 2 pass break-ups. The Bucs defense had no answer for and never tried to adjust to Dallas tight end Dalton Schultz who finished with 7 catches for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. The “Gravediggers” dug their own graves allowing Dak Prescott to have a career day finishing 25 of 33 for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns AND rushing for another 24 yards and another touchdown.
Tom Brady’s Performance
Even though his numbers ended up being almost respectable, Brady was terribly inefficient and inaccurate in this game. He finished 35 of 66 for 351 yards, 2 touchdowns and the redzone interception. His 66 pass attempts set a new career-high, with the previous being 65 against the 49ers in 2012 and his career playoff-high was 62 in the Super Bowl against the Falcons. The 2 touchdowns put him at 123 touchdowns with the Buccaneers moving him past Jameis Winston (121) for most in franchise history. Regardless, his poor performance of underthrowing, overthrowing and missing wide open receivers as well as misreading coverages could’ve been his last in a Buccaneers uniform. And I’m sure it will be a little while before he announces anything. He’s probably going to wait to see who the Bucs go with as their new offensive coordinator and maybe he’ll talk to Rob Gronkowski and Ryan Jensen to find out their intentions for next year before he makes his decision.
BIG BUCS OF THE DAY
OFFENSE : C Ryan Jensen
I could’ve given this to Chris Godwin who had 10 catches for 85 yards or maybe even Rachaad White who finished with 77 all-purpose yards, but instead it’s going to the “Big Red Rhino” himself. After the game, Jensen FINALLY made public the severity of his knee injury, which consisted of tears in his ACL, MCL and PCL, a flipped meniscus, and a fracture with some kind of chipped bone in his knee. The fact that he suffered such a bad injury and was still able to come back and play in this final game of the season is a testament to how much of a warrior he is. Hopefully, he returns next season and brings Tom Brady back with him.
DEFENSE : LB Lavonte David
I’m only giving him this out of default because he led the team with 9 tackles and because this could possibly be his last game as a Buccaneer. I don’t think it will be, but he is a free agent after this season and he’s a 33-year old linebacker. I’m just saying it’s a possibility. I think the Bucs will bring him back to finish his career in Tampa, but you never know what can happen in this league these days.
BAD BUCS OF THE DAY
OFFENSE : RB Leonard Fournette
I’m not sure why, but “Playoff Lenny” got out-snapped by rookie Rachaad White 46-35 in this game and he finished with just 5 carries for 11 yards and 1 catch for 6 yards. I don’t know if he got hurt during the game or what, but he played less than half of the Bucs 80 offensive plays. In any case, he wasn’t productive when he was in the game so I suppose it’s a moot point.
DEFENSE : LB Devin White
He only had 5 tackles and 1 tackle for loss in a game where the Cowboys offense ran 69 offensive plays. Plus, even though it might not have been his responsibility every time, Dallas tight end Dalton Schultz shredded the Bucs defense with 7 catches for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s also the captain and quarterback of a defense that gave up 425 total yards and allowed the Cowboys to possess the ball for almost 35 minutes of this 60-minute game.
THE WRAP UP
As disappointing as this early exit from the playoffs was for the Bucs, it’s somewhat of a relief for me because this torturous season is finally over. It was not easy watching the greatest quarterback of all-time barely average 18 points per game and struggle to find the endzone every week. Even though I’ve been a Bucs fan for nearly 30 years and been through worse seasons than this, it’s harder to watch a team that you know has the potential to be so much better than what they are portraying on the football field week in and week out. This 2022 Buccaneers team had that potential. Sure, injuries hurt them. But not as much as the lack of leadership and knowledge in their coaching staff. This team may have “won the division” and made the playoffs, but were they really worthy of those accolades? I don’t think so. And they proved it on Monday night.
THE LOOK AHEAD
This Buccaneers team will have a ton of BIG decisions to make this upcoming off-season. Not just with the coaching staff, but with the 27 free agents that they will have as well, including Tom Brady and Lavonte David. I think the decision to fire offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will be announced sooner rather than later, possibly even within the next day or two. That will be the first step. Super Bowl LVII will be on February 12th. The NFL Combine will be held from Feb. 28th to March 6th. At 4pm on March 15th, the NFL free agency period begins. Then, the 2023 NFL Draft will take place from April 27th to the 29th where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go on the clock with the 19th pick. Hopefully, sometime between now and then, the Bucs can make the necessary improvements to turn themselves into a playoff worthy team. If not, we’ll be welcoming the dark times of Buccaneer football back into Tampa Bay once again.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!