Yes, Buccaneers fans…it’s happening. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are for real. They’ve won four in a row, the latest being a big comeback win in San Diego. Through three quarters of the season, the Bucs are in prime position for a playoff spot.
After the beating the Buccaneers took against Atlanta on Thursday night football, no one thought this could happen. Yet, here we are. Four weeks later and the Bucs have won four in a row to get to 7-5. Now, they control their own destiny. Keep winning and you’re in the playoffs. No needing other teams to help. They got all their help Sunday. As it stands now, they are in.
It was a difficult game from an injury standpoint. We saw Luke Stocker go out on the first play, Cecil Shorts get his leg essentially broken off, and Adam Humphries leaves with a concussion following a helmet to helmet shot – that of course went uncalled. Doug Martin left the game with a leg injury. He returned for one play, but wasn’t needed the rest of the game. It doesn’t appear to be anything serious, but we’ll find out more later.
All that said, this was a massive win for the Buccaneers. So, let’s summon our inner Lavonte David and Pick Six!
1.) This team is for real. There’s no denying it. Despite one side of the ball or the other struggling, this team finds a way to overcome and win. That’s what playoff teams do. That’s what the Bucs have been unable to do for a decade. They’ve always found ways to lose. Now? They are finding ways to win. Getting turnovers late in the game. Jameis Winston shaking off defenders and finding guys like Freddie Martino for first downs on 3rd-and-long. This team has leadership, heart, and the belief that no matter who lines up across from them, they will win. The culture is changing right in front of our eyes.
2.) The red zone is not our friend. For a team that was deadly in the red zone earlier this season, the Bucs are struggling mightily when they reach the red zone now. Aguayo missed a 31-yard field goal against the Chargers, which of course brought the boo-birds back out. Even back to the Chiefs game, the Bucs were settling for red zone field goals. Last week against Seattle, they stalled in the red zone. This has to be fixed. Yes, as I mentioned above, they’re finding ways to win. So do other teams. And if the Bucs can’t capitalize on their red zone opportunities, the other teams will soon take advantage. They are sorely lacking offensive weapons, but they have been all season and this trend just began three weeks ago. Fix it, Dirk.
3.) Offensive line was, well, offensive. The Chargers got pressure in Winston’s face all day long. The run game was non-existent. Demar Dotson negated yet another Winston scramble with a stupid penalty. Donovan Smith was beat on numerous occasions and does not appear to be the franchise left tackle Jason Licht drafted him to be. This mess has to get cleaned up. With the Saints, Cowboys, and Panthers on the horizon, Jameis has to stay upright and the run game has to re-surge.
4.) Defense bent – a lot – but came up big. Vernon Hargreaves had a big pass deflection that ended up in the arms of Lavonte David, who returned it for his second career touchdown. Keith Tandy – who was in for the injured Chris Conte – made an interception on the two yard line, saving a touchdown and sealing the game. The defensive line started slow, but stepped up and kept the pressure on Philip Rivers. Rivers was able to dump off to Melvin Gordon rather often and Gordon shredded the defense. Gordon is an absolute stud and he showed why he was worthy of the high draft pick the Chargers spent on his last year. All that considered, the defense yet again made plays in the biggest moments to seal a win. They’re getting it. They’re putting it together. Far from a finished product, but look at the difference between the last four weeks compared to the first four. Night and day.
5.) Mike Evans had his worst game of the year, but it didn’t matter. Well, it might’ve mattered if you were relying on Mike to get you into your fantasy playoffs, but think about it; Mike Evans is the only legitimate weapon on this offense. Outside of him and Doug Martin, Winston is working with nothing but undrafted free agents. Evans ended up with three receptions for 38 yards and a two point conversion. Yet, Winston was 20/30 for 280 and a touchdown. Other guys, unsung heroes, are stepping up. If defenses are going to key on Mike and try to eliminate him from the game, Winston is going to beat them some other way. Cameron Brate, Russell Shepard, the water boy – it doesn’t matter. When Mike is struggling to get catches, the guys rally around him and pick up the slack.
6.) Don’t fall into the trap! Okay, Bucs. This message is for you. You’re riding high off four impressive wins. Potential franchise changing wins. Don’t believe your own hype. Don’t listen to ESPN, NFL Network, any one. Stay off twitter. Stay off facebook. FOCUS. Don’t look ahead. Don’t think about playoffs. The season is only 75% done. You still have four games – four winnable games – remaining. Finish it. Take it one week at a time and finish this regular season off in epic fashion. Drew Brees saw his touchdown streak end today and he’s going to be ready to sling it next week. Don’t worry about Dallas or if you’re flexed into prime time or not. Beat Drew Brees. Shut down Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks. Stuff Mark Ingram. Just worry about the Saints.
Six Numbers To Consider
Dec 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) spikes the ball following a touchdown during the second half against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Tampa Bay won 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
8 – Number of years since the Buccaneers won four in a row
1 – Number of quarterbacks to start their career with 28 consecutive games with a touchdown – Jameis Winston
3 – Bucs’ rank in the NFL in 3rd down defense
11 – Number of players Bucs placed on IR since Sep 4th, most in the NFL
2 – Career touchdowns by Lavonte David
20 – Takeaways by the Bucs defense since week 5, most in the NFL
Six Top Performers
6.) Lavonte David – Had a rough start to the game, but he began swarming to the ball and had a key pick six in the second half.
5.) Freddie Martino – Although he only had four receptions for 56 yards, he caught all four passes thrown his way and had two key first downs. Stepped up in a big way after Shorts and Humphries went down.
4.) Gerald McCoy – Consistent pressure, had a sack, and has stepped up his level play – if that’s even possible – during this win streak.
3.) Robert Ayers – Emerging as one of the bonafide leaders of this team. Added another sack to his resumé today.
2.) Cameron Brate – Led the team with six catches, 86 yards, and a touchdown. Now has six touchdowns on the season, third most by a tight end in a season in Bucs history (Jimmie Giles had seven in 1979 and eight in 1985)
1.) Jameis Winston – The leader. The franchise. On a day his top weapon was all but eliminated from the game, the kid – yes, 22 year old kid – still threw for 280 yards, a touchdown, and led the game winning drive on the road to win a fourth straight game.
Six Teams To Root For In Week 14
With the Bucs currently sitting at the six seed with four games left, we’re going to continue to let you know who to keep your eye on in the other games.
6.) Los Angeles Rams – The host the Atlanta Falcons. It’s a long shot, but crazier things have happened.
5.) Philadelphia Eagles – They take on the Redskins. A win puts the Eagles at 6-7 while the Skins would drop to 6-6-1.
4.) San Diego Chargers – They travel to Carolina and despite their troubles, the Panthers aren’t done yet. Keep ’em down.
3.) Dallas Cowboys – They take on the 8-4 Giants. Not only does a Giants loss help the Bucs, but we all want to be the ones who knock Dallas down a peg, don’t we?
2.) Jacksonville Jaguars – Another long shot, but the Vikings have been struggling big time lately. They’re 6-6 and a loss to the Jags might put the final nail in their coffin.
1.) Seattle Seahawks – Green Bay is one game back of the Bucs at 6-6. If there’s one team we don’t want to see get hot, it’s the Packers.
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) New England Patriots – *makes gagging noise*
2.) Dallas Cowboys – *still gagging*
3.) Oakland Raiders – 10-2? For real? And the Bucs had ’em beat…
4.) Seattle Seahawks – The experience in the postseason is nothing to overlook. They could beat Dallas come playoff time and no one would be surprised.
5.) Kansas City Chiefs – They keep finding ways to win. No idea how, but they do.
10.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Still on fire, but New Orleans is no pushover. Big test, Sunday.