The Buccaneers Balancing Act


Looking Back

The Buccaneers put to rest their woes of last year steamrolling the Bears to a 38-3 victory. The Buccaneers and company also entered rarefied air Sunday in a couple of categories. For the franchise, the Bucs now have their best start in franchise history at 6-1. As for Tom Brady, he hit a major milestone at the end of the first quarter throwing his 600th regular-season touchdown. The Buccaneers were firing on all cylinders from the start on Sunday, not only did the Bucs show up, but they also showed out.

Let’s touch on the fact that I got burned on my score prediction for this game. I felt coming in the Buccaneers would dominate this game, but it wouldn’t be reflected on the scoreboard, similar to last week in Philadelphia. The Bucs defensive front began the game in dominant fashion helping generate 3 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game. It felt like nearly the entire first half of the game was played inside the Bears 30-yard line. Because of this, the Buccaneers were able to score often and with ease. The combined team effort led to a demolishing of the Bears.

White Hot

Jaelon Darden also helped ignite the Buccaneers offense by setting the unit up at the 32 yard-line on a 43-yard punt return that is the longest the NFL has seen this year. After the first play call resulted in a pass interference the Bucs offense had first and ten from the Chicago 17. The Bucs then went heavy, checking in Josh Wells for what would be a 2 play, 17-yard rumble from Leonard Fournette. This punch in the face set the tone for the evening in Raymond James.

The Bucs offense hummed to a 21- point lead by the end of the first quarter scoring on three out of four possessions. Those three drives all started at or inside the Bears’ 40 yard-line. Credit to the Buccaneers defense for an interception and sack-fumble giving the offense advantageous field position. Half of the Bears first 6 possessions resulted in a takeaway by the Bucs defense, the unit came to play Sunday. Shaq Barrett continues to deliver on his sack promise.

Yin and Dang!

This desire to run the ball would increase throughout the evening leading Tampa to finish this game with it being their most balanced mix this season with 39 pass attempts and 31 rushing touches. Most notably a good mix of Ronald Jones and Fournette. This approach not only allowed the Bucs play-action pass to be very effective but lead the Buccaneers to outgain the Bears as well.

What the Bucs proved Sunday is that they can run the ball whenever they want because they have an elite offensive line, not just a good one. This was echoed by the unit not allowing a single sack against a defensive line that is tied for the most sacks in the NFL. The Buccaneers also averaged 1.5 yards more per carry than the Bears average allowed YPC. Half of the Bucs’ ten longest plays game from the rush totaling 73 of the Bucs 182 rushing yards. Not bad.

Sustaining Success

While the second half of the game likely lulled many to sleep with the Bucs only having 4 possessions in the half. The only thing Buccaneers fans likely remember is the failed opportunities at the goal-line and lots of running the football. Credit the Bears defense for playing with pride and not allowing the Bucs to score at the goal-line however the Bucs should execute better in these situations. This may sound dramatic, but the Bucs had 1st and Goal from the Bears 2 yard-line and weren’t able to punch it in.

I felt in this situation the Bucs got stale with their play calling. Aside from the jet motion play-action pass for Godwin. From less than 5 yards out the Bucs called a screen and 2 run plays, things the Bears had been seeing for three-quarters of football. This allowed the Bears’ defense to fire on their read-keys. The Bucs continued their success on the ground in the second half outside of this RedZone situation. The Saints present another formidable rush defense. Ranking ahead of the Bears and the Bucs in opponent YPC the offensive unit has another challenge to rise to.

Key to Success vs. Saints

For the Bucs to be successful against a Saints defense that has played exceptionally well against the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers will need a steady mix of run and play-action pass to keep the Saints defenders on their toes. Much like their approach the last two weeks. Last year the Bucs did not find any success against the Saints until they leaned into the Run and adopted a balanced approach. This Began to open the playbook for Tampa and gave the offense sustained drives.

While that NFC Divisional game wasn’t Brady’s best statistically, in fact very similar to his performance Sunday. The Bucs offensive unit got the job done and they beat an outstanding defense that fateful night on January 17th. One that the Bucs hope to repeat on Halloween.