DLT Doubloons – Buccaneers Persevere Against the Patriots

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On a rainy New England night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won a game that had all the makings of a huge disappointment for the Bucs’ Die Hards. It was a game where Tampa Bay had a lot of things going against them, but somehow, someway, the Buccaneers escaped Foxborough with a 19-17 win.

What I Liked

  • The Bucs’ pass rush returned. Tampa Bay sacked Mac Jones 4 times and hit the young QB another 12 times in a must-have performance.
  • The Bucs running game lives!

What I Didn’t

  • It was a pretty poor performance by the Bucs’ passing game, including the G.O.A.T. himself. Now, the inclement weather had a lot to do with that, but there were some other factors at play as well, as we will discuss in the Pieces of Eight segment.

Pieces of Eight

ONE

I know what you’re thinking. What in the world is ole DLT talking about? It was an ugly performance out there in New England. The Buccaneers were a touchdown favorite and barely squeaked by with an unimpressive win. Tampa Bay certainly had a dramatic talent advantage didn’t they? This should have been a blowout!

Well, I’ve certainly never been confused with a sane person, but I do think this was a huge, beautiful win by the Bucs against some terrible circumstances.

First – and probably foremost – New England caught a heck of a break with a torrential downpour that plagued the game from the start. It caused several overthrows from the normally dialed in Brady, making the Buccaneers offense sputter with fits and stops.

Second – This was a New England team that put every single ounce of effort into pulling off this upset for their general and leader Bill Belichick. They knew how badly Bill wanted this game and the Patriots played their backsides off to give it to him.  It was the Patriots’ Super Bowl. They welcomed their hero, Brady, back but desperately wanted to send him home with a big fat L.

Third – Bill himself devised a whale of a game plan. You knew he didn’t want Tom Brady going crazy, throwing for 400 yards and 5 touchdowns against him. Belichick is the master at taking away what you do well, and he showed it again Sunday night.

Fourth – The emotions got to Brady a bit, didn’t it? I think we all can agree that wasn’t the best Tom Brady we’ve seen. It’s understandable. The weather was certainly a factor here, but Mac Jones played in the same weather and completed over 80% of his passes. No, I think Tom had a bit of trouble managing his emotions in this one and it’s something we’re not used to seeing.

Fifth – The number of injuries the Buccaneers endured before the game and during evened the playing field significantly. Losing Gronk hurt the offense badly. Losing Carlton Davis III in the first half and Antoine Winfield, Jr. late was devastating to an already patchwork secondary.

Sixth – Think of the travel the Bucs endured the past two weeks. Across the country to face the L.A. Rams, then back home, then all the way up the East coast to face a passionate New England team in inclement weather.

Bucs fans should be proud of how their football team handled this stacked deck against them and pulled off the win. Remember the Chicago game last season. This had all the trappings of that, but Tampa Bay found a way.

Two

Let’s talk about that Buccaneers’ defense. We mentioned all the things stacked against them on this night. Losing JPP was a significant blow to an underwhelming pass rush and the Bucs were already missing two of their top three corners coming into the game.

Then late in the second quarter, their top corner Carlton Davis III, who was already nursing leg and rib injuries, went down with a quad injury and has to be carted off to the locker room, leaving Tampa Bay without their three top corners from last season. The Buccaneers had two guys who had never taken a snap in the 2021 season as starters against the Patriots in the second half.

Despite all of that, the Buccaneers defense held New England under 20 points (17) and under 300 yards of total offense (294).

Yes, Mac Jones put together two impressive touchdown drives and completed over 80% of his passes, but he averaged just 6.8 yds per pass attempt and Tampa Bay was excellent on third down for perhaps the first time this season (2-of-9 22%).

The run defense was stellar, too, with 6 tackles for loss.

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka got his first two career sacks of his NFL career, with Shaq Barrett and William Gholston adding two more, while the defense pummelled the rookie with another 12 QB hits.

Antoine Winfield, Jr., before being taken out of the game for evaluation of a concussion, picked off Jones and forced a critical fumble deep in Bucs’ territory to keep Tampa Bay in striking distance.

In a night where the Buccaneers got no help from their offense, their patchwork defense had to step up and win a football game and they did.

Three

Many Bucs’ fans are lamenting the fact the Bucs played into New England’s hands by running the football.

Look, if the Bucs offense is going to be as great as we all hope it will be in 2021, they’re going to need their running game.

You saw what New England was trying to do to confuse Brady: threaten the blitz and then drop 7 into coverage…or bring the house. Each throw had to be precise in a driving rainstorm and let’s face it, it wasn’t.

Tampa Bay HAD to run the football. Belichick is the greatest defensive mastermind this league has ever seen. He’s going to take away what you do best – and the Bucs’ offense are best when they can throw the pill around the yard. Bill wasn’t going to let Brady beat him.

It is an encouraging sign to see that when the Buccaneers HAVE to run the football, they can. Tampa Bay pounded out 119 yds on 30 carries (4.1 average) and scored their only touchdown of the game on the ground.

Brady will have his 400 yd, 5 touchdown days on offense. The Bucs will put 30 points on the board most nights.

Sometimes, you got to tip your cap to the opponent and Bill Belichick is one heck of an opponent.

Four

Richard Sherman, playing after a long layoff and just a few days of practicing with the Bucs defense, suddenly found himself as the Bucs’ number one corner in the second half. As shocking as that had to be for “Uncle Sherm”, it was an advantage the Patriots were able to exploit.

Sherman did the best he could in that situation and in the end, the Buccaneers got enough from their secondary to get home four times and hold the Patriots under 300 net yds passing on the night.

Pierre Desir also deserves some credit for his performance as well. After spending the past month on the team’s practice squad, he suddenly found himself at starting right corner and narrowly missed a shot at pick-six that was miraculously caught by the receiver.

On a day when rookie QBs were dropping bombs and getting wins on opponents supposedly superior to them, the Bucs’ ailing defense found a way.

Five

What a night it must have been for Tom Brady. Returning home to the place he played for twenty years. Twenty years – can you believe that? When Brady started, Tampa Bay had Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in their prime, Brad Johnson as their QB, and Tony Dungy as their head coach. The team hadn’t even won the Super Bowl yet, ending the ’01 season being bounced out of the playoffs by the Eagles.

Brady even had a hand in the Bucs’ first Super Bowl if you think about it. If not for the tuck rule game, the Raiders would have never let Jon Gruden go, they would have gone on to AFC Championship game and quite possibly the Super Bowl. Instead, it was Brady and the Patriots.

It really was great to see the Patriots and their fans give Tom the reverence he so duly reserved. Brady also set the NFL’s all-time passing yardage record during the game, although it was kind of a weird moment as originally it wasn’t given to him, and then suddenly, it was.

Belichick gave Brady the half-hearted bro hug at the end of the game but met with his former quarterback privately in the Bucs locker room for nearly 30 minutes. I think it was good for Brady that he and Bill could have that private moment together, without the bright lights analyzing every facial expression and word spoken.

Brady didn’t beat Bill Sunday night, it was the Buccaneers who beat the Patriots. It took all 22 starters (and a few more) on offense and defense, plus special teams, to pull off the win and it was a battle that many in New England won’t forget for some time.

Hopefully, Brady has the closer he needs, the distraction of this game is beyond them and now he can focus on what truly matters to him – the next ring.

Six

O.J. Howard continued to be M.I.A. for the Buccaneers, despite the Bucs missing Rob Gronkowski in the ballgame. Despite being in for 50 of Tampa Bay’s 78 offensive plays, Howard was essentially an afterthought for Tom Brady, only getting one pass thrown his way (which was incomplete).

Howard, in the final year of his contract, is at a bit of a crossroads with the Buccaneers. When healthy, he was a dynamic weapon for offensive masterminds Dirk Koetter and Bruce Arians’ as well as a safety blanket for QB Jameis Winston (sometimes to Winston’s own detriment).

Instead of taking center stage with the absence of Gronk, it was Cameron Brate that Brady trusted more, throwing the ball to Brate 6 times. Brate finished with 2 receptions for 29 yds. He dropped a catchable ball that would have gone for a first down as well (although he wasn’t officially credited with a drop).

Howard, though, never really got a chance to impact the game. Perhaps his recovery from the Achilles injury that ended his 2020 season has really hampered him or stripped him of some of that quickness that was the hallmark of his game. Or, maybe he just hasn’t been with Brady long enough to have that trust established.

Regardless, Howard needs to find that next gear and get his chemistry right with the quarterback or he just might go down as Bucs’ GM Jason Licht’s third bust in the first round (joining Vernon Hargreaves and Jameis Winston).

Seven

The rest of the Bucs’ NFC South rivals had bad days at the office, two blowing double-digit leads for shocking losses. First, the Carolina Panthers vaunted defense gave up 245 yds on the ground and 36 points to the Dallas Cowboys in a tough road loss, dropping Carolina to 3-1 on the year.

The Saints’ offensive ineptitude finally came back to bite them in the backside as their defense surrender 400+ yds passing to Daniel Jones and the Giants rallied from an 11 point fourth-quarter deficit to steal a win in the Saints’ return to the Big Easy. The Saints fall to an unsatisfying 2-2.

Speaking of blowing leads, no one does it better than the Atlanta Falcons and the Falcons falcon’d yet again, blowing an early 10 point lead and an 8 point fourth quarter lead in a loss to the Washington Football team. The Falcons are in the cellar at 1-3

Eight

Up next for the Bucs, the Miami Dolphins. Miami is a bit offensively challenged at this point of the season. Their QB Tua Tagovailoa is out at least another week with broken ribs, leaving veteran backup Jacoby Brissett to try and keep the Dolphins afloat in the AFC East.

It hasn’t been pretty. Miami is ranked 31st in total offense and scoring offense, 30th in passing offense, and 28th rushing.  Defensively they’re a little more respectable but not great, 22nd in total defense.

Tampa Bay really needs to guard against a letdown after such an emotional game in Foxborough and find a way to get the job done against a vastly inferior opponent.

Tweet of the Game

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