When the Bucs looked at the 2021 schedule, there was a stretch that looked particularly daunting. A long trip to the west coast, followed by a trip up North for an important game for a certain future Hall of Fame quarterback. Back home for Miami, then back on the road again, this time on a short week, to Philadelphia, not known as an easy place to play.
The Bucs completed this grueling gauntlet and emerged 5-1after winning their third game in 12 days. This also puts the Bucs in first place in the NFC South.
What I Liked
- The Eagles found a way to inexplicably make it close in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay’s injury riddled defense played terrific.
- Antonio Brown emerging as the team’s number one weapon.
- Leonard Fournette taking control as the Bucs rushing leader and safety valve receiver.
What I Didn’t
- The Bucs almost blowing a 28-7 lead with some bonehead plays and some weird play calling.
- Penalties – way too many penalties, which pretty much set up all of Philadelphia’s points.
Pieces of Eight
On the Eagles’ first drive of the football game, Tampa Bay lost corner Richard Sherman for the game. Sherman left with a hamstring injury, the seriousness of the injury is not known. Yes, the same Richard Sherman who was brought in to fill the void left by the Bucs’ other injured starting corners Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting.
So a defense down four starters entering the game, lost a replacement starter, and faced a mobile QB with a big arm and some 1st round wideouts.
Somehow, the Buccaneers defense put together perhaps their finest performance of the season. By limiting the Eagles to 213 yds of total offense and just 113 yds passing. While the Bucs did give some yards on the ground to RB Miles Sanders and QB Jalen Hurts, the Bucs defense was stellar most of the night.
They held the Eagles to 3-of-10 on third down, including five three-and-out possessions and an interception. The Eagles didn’t cross 100 yards of total offense until the fourth quarter and their first two scores were set up by pass interference penalties.
Now, the Bucs defense did seem to tire a bit down the stretch – but heck – they were undermanned and playing their third game in 12 days, second on the road. Also, the Bucs still struggled defending in the Red Zone. If they would have forced a few field goals instead of touchdowns, this game would have never been in doubt.
Despite losing Sherman, it was an encouraging sign to see the Bucs defense stymie the Eagles. The Bucs will get a little extra time off before they face the Chicago Bears. This will allow at least one of their defenders to return to the lineup (Antoine Winfield, Jr.).
Just when the Bucs think they had the penalty issue licked, it rears its ugly head. Now, there’s something that can be said for playing on a short week, it seems these Thursday night games, by their nature, cause teams to have some undisciplined penalties.
On the night, Tampa Bay had 7 penalties and totaled up a whopping 120 yds. Although most were of the pass interference or defensive holding variety.
and totaled up a whopping 120 yds. They weren’t ticky-tack penalties either – they were well earned and to be completely honest, the Bucs actually got away with a few more.
Here’s a breakdown of the Bucs’ penalty miscues and what resulted:
- First Quarter, 6:14 left, Jamel Dean is called for a 45 yd pass interference penalty, setting Philadelphia up at the Bucs’ 5-yard line. On the next play, Hurts would hit Zack Ertz for the touchdown to tie the ball game.
- Second Quarter, 1:24 left, with the ball at their own 35 and two timeouts to work with, Tristan Wirfs begins the drive with a false start, putting the Bucs off schedule and Brady would eventually be intercepted.
- Third Quarter, 5:47 left, the Bucs were comfortably ahead 28-7, but a 50-yard pass interference penalty on Mike Edwards set the Eagles up at the Tampa Bay 25. Eventually, Hurts would run it in himself to give the Eagles some renewed life.
- Fourth Quarter, 11:28 left in the game, the Bucs still ahead 28-14. Tampa Bay tried to put the game away, moving the ball to their 47-yard line. LT Donovan Smith got called for holding on a 9 yard run by Ronald Jones that would have put Tampa Bay in Philadelphia territory. Instead, the Bucs faced 1st-and-20 from their own 37. Three plays later, they failed on 4th-and-3, giving the Eagles the ball at their own 46. The Eagles would march down the field, get a touchdown and a two-point conversion to pull the game within six.
The Eagles committed their own penalties as well, including an idiotic taunting penalty that allowed the Bucs to drive the field and run out the clock, but this was really another example of the “Bucs beating the Bucs,” as Coach Arians likes to say.
People were wondering why a game so dominated by the Bucs in every facet was even this close – this was why.
Going for it on 4th-and-three at the Eagles 46-yard line with 9:04 left in the game definitely can be debated. Honestly, I didn’t have a problem with the decision. The Bucs have closed out a lot of games with a “No Risk It, No Biscuit” attitude. The Eagles’ defense wasn’t getting to Brady and there wasn’t really much concern that they could stop the Bucs offense.
Honestly, I just didn’t like the play call (or the decision by the quarterback). Just drop the pass off to your safety valve, get the three yards, keep charging ahead, and bleed the clock. Instead, Brady got greedy and went for a long pass to OJ Howard that wasn’t even close.
Some would argue the smart move would have been to punt the ball and pin the Eagles back. I can see that, but honestly, that’s not how this team plays or how they got to the Super Bowl last year. They take chances. Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you. This time, it cost the Bucs a little comfort and some bettors a lot of money.
One of the more interesting aspects of these football games are how teams decide to die against Tampa Bay’s galaxy of stars. Some teams blitz Brady relentlessly. Other teams try to man up on the Bucs receivers. Still, others try to take away the big play with various zone schemes, keep everything in front of them, and hope the Bucs screw up along the way.
While it’s frustrating for fans who are used to seeing the big passing chunks and the highlight reel touchdowns, the Bucs proved Thursday night they can play the “death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts” style, be patient and still put points on the board.
Things got a little dicey in the fourth quarter, and it was rather disappointing to see the Bucs only managed one score in the second half, but the focus was bleeding that clock with the big lead.
Tampa Bay dominated time of possession, controlling nearly 40 minutes of clock time, and when Tampa Bay needed to drive the field and burn the remaining 5:54 off the clock, Tom Brady and the Bucs were able to do it.
No, he’s not going to make anyone believe he’s Derrick Henry, but Leonard Fournette has definitely taken over as Tampa Bay’s primary running back in their offense and he’s rewarded them in three consecutive games with some outstanding play both rushing and receiving.
With Gronkowski still sidelined by cracked ribs, Fournette has developed into Brady’s safety blanket, generating over 100 yards of offense each of the last three games.
Where does this leave Ronald Jones, Jr. – a near 1,000-yard rusher last season? He’s honestly become the forgotten man. Jones was only in on 14 plays compared to Fournette’s 47 plays. He’s a backup. He spells Fournette and gives him a breather, but that’s it. I don’t think it’s an indictment of RoJo or his skillset, but more about Fournette’s ascension to becoming a reliable weapon to add to Tom Brady’s already overstocked arsenal.
It continues to amaze me how unselfish this Bucs’ offense is. On any other team, if stars the caliber of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin weren’t getting targets, there would be a mob in the street calling for the offensive coaching staff’s dismissal.
Yet, for this team, they don’t care about anything but winning. Evans only had 4 targets after dominating the past two weeks. Philadelphia was determined to eliminate him from the game. Godwin only had 5 targets. Meanwhile, Antonio Brown and O.J. Howard combined for 20 targets, 15 receptions, 142 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Leonard Fournette was targeted more times than Evans and Godwin. Despite two key weapons essentially being taken away, the Bucs’ offense produced 28 points, nearly 400 yards of offense, and another victory. They honestly left a lot of points on the field, too.
One last note on Howard: he looked good – better than he has in a long time. Perhaps he’s finally getting his game back after the terrible Achilles injury he suffered last season. If he can be a viable weapon, especially when Gronk returns…man, who do you stop?
The good news is these guys don’t seem to care who stars as long as the game ends as a dub for Tampa Bay.
It’s a quiet week in the NFC South as both Atlanta and New Orleans get the dreaded early season bye week. Carolina will host the 2-3 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings pulled their feet out of the fire rallying past the winless Lions. Meanwhile Carolina collapsed against the Eagles the previous week. I think Carolina will win the game, but if McCaffrey can’t play, it’s definitely not a slam dunk. A Carolina loss would put them two games back in the NFC South.
The Bucs are off for the weekend and return to Advent Health Training Center (aka One Buc Palace) on Tuesday. It’s a much needed rest for a team that has traveled a lot in the past month. On the 24th, Tampa Bay will host the Chicago Bears, one of the teams that beat them last year.
The Bears are 3-2, heading into a big game against their arch rival Green Bay Packers. As always, the Bears defense is top ten in total yards and scoring, but their offense is struggling under rookie first-round pick Justin Fields. Chicago is dead last in total offense and 30th in scoring, averaging just 16.8 points per game. Fields is another mobile QB who can cause the Bucs’ pass rush fits. But unlike Hurts, Fields hasn’t really shown he can be a threat throwing the football, as the Bears go into Sunday dead last in passing. Their leading rusher David Montgomery is on IR and will miss the game against Tampa Bay.
It’s another week for the Tampa Bay defense to continue to maintain, get well and watch the Bucs’ offense cook.
Tweet of The Week
Thursday Night Lenny
— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) October 15, 2021