For most of Sunday afternoon, it seemed as though everybody knew their lines. The cast seemed poised to hit all their marks. The orchestra had warmed up, the stage was set. Then something peculiar happened. A production billed as a show of Buccaneer force turned into a farce best described as a comedy of errors.
The First Act
The opening act on Sunday was going according to plan. The Buccaneers contained Saquon Barkley. They generally made Daniel Jones look like the rookie that he is. Jameis Winston was finding his receivers with crisply thrown passes. Even Breshard Perriman had an exquisite catch on a bullet across the middle for a first down. The spotlight would even shine on Mike Evans who would have three first-half touchdown receptions.
The Buccaneers were controlling the clock, moving the ball, and putting the beating on a Giants team that everybody expected. The two missed extra points, one being blocked, were dismissed as collateral damage. The first half would end with a clock-worked drive that set up rookie Matt Gay to kick a career-long 52-yard field goal. The curtain closed on the first half with the Buccaneers up 28-10.
This was Ronde Barber’s time. The legendary Buccaneer would race down from the press box where he was covering the game for Fox. Becoming the 13th member of the Buccaneer Ring of Honor, Ronde would be joined on the field by his entire family for a momentous celebration. Also joining Ronde was fellow Ring of Honor members Jimmy Giles, Warren Sapp, Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks, and Paul Gruber.
There were more than a few misty eyes in Raymond James Stadium. On a beautiful Florida evening the day before Autumn was to begin, there was a breeze, sunshine, and an induction ceremony to be remembered.
The Second Act
Right about the time the third quarter began the train came off the track. The Giants started softening the Buccaneer defense up with end-arounds, moving pockets, and a rookie quarterback that was finding his targets. The Tampa Bay defensive line would still provide pressure but the secondary started playing a scheme that would best be described as prevent defense meets seven-on-seven drill.
The Buccaneer running game would spit and sputter but never fully lock the game down. Winston would throw into triple coverage once or twice and throw the off-balance interception we’ve come to expect.
First off, the Buccaneers missed another game-winning field goal. Worse, this one was a gimme. Where’s Rolf Benirschke when you need him? Secondly, the Buccaneers defense, led by Shaq Barrett still put on a great show. Save for the second half.
Even in defeat this just didn’t feel like the world was going to end. It hurt like hell. Make no mistake about it. A missed opportunity? You bet. Does the road get any easier as the team sets out on the road for the next month? That would be a resounding no. For the Buccaneers the 2019 show must go on.