DLT’s Doubloons – Bucs Thankful for a Get Right Game Against Giants

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It’s felt like forever since the Bucs last won a game, didn’t it? Tampa Bay thumped the New York Giants 30-10 on Monday Night Football in front of a crazed crowd at Raymond James Stadium, where Tampa Bay improved to 5-0 on the season.

What I Liked

  • Chris Godwin making plays all over the field.
  • Mike Evans‘ record breaking touchdown catch.
  • Gronk returning and making a huge impact.
  • The Bucs defense playing lights out.
  • The Tampa Bay Bandits are back. Not Bucs-related but COOL, man!

What I Didn’t

  • Evans having a screen pass bounce off his shoulder pad and into the waiting arms of a Giants defender setting up their only touchdown of the game.
  • Penalties wiping out big plays, including a 24 yd touchdown catch by Godwin.

Pieces of Eight

One

Many Bucs fans were wringing their hands about this game. Tampa Bay was coming off their worst performance of the season, was on a two game losing streak, the Giants had been a pain in the backside for other contenders and were getting back some of their offensive stars while the Buccaneers were still banged up.

I wasn’t worried, not one bit. First, the Bucs were at home – and we know what happens at home – the Bucs blow out the competition. Second, I fully expected Tampa Bay to return to inspired football on national television in front of a raucous crowd. If the Buccaneers played to Tampa Bay’s expected level of play, the Giants didn’t belong on the field with them.

Honestly, the Bucs didn’t play to their expected level of play – at least on offense. They still left a lot of points on the field with penalties that wiped out huge plays, a turnover that set up New York’s only score, and some ineffective trips into the red zone where Tampa Bay finished 3-of-5. This game felt like it should have been even a bigger blowout than it was.

That’s probably why Tom Brady looked ticked off after the game. He knew that while it would be good enough to beat a 3-7 team like the Giants, it won’t fly in the playoffs.

So despite being 7-3 and in full control of the NFC South, the Buccaneers are still a work in progress and aren’t championship caliber yet.

Two

Sean Murphy-Bunting returned to Tampa Bay’s secondary on Monday Night and after an ugly first series, seemed to settle in. The Bucs defense was terrific against the Giants, who got back Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, and Andrew Thomas on offense.

Tampa Bay forced 3 turnovers and held the Giants to 215 yds of total offense. Tampa Bay dramatically improved on 3rd down efficiency, holding New York to just 1-of-9 11.1% and had two key fourth down stops that ended New York scoring threats.

The Giants managed just 10 points, and 7 of those were set up by a gift interception that set up their offense at point blank range.

No, the Giants aren’t an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but after getting torched by Taylor Heinicke and Trevor Siemian, there was some doubt creeping in about the Tampa Bay defense, especially with the injury to Vita Vea.

Tampa Bay answered the call on Monday Night.

Three

Despite his much discussed gaff in the second quarter, Mike Evans had a big night in front of a national television audience and became the franchise record holder for touchdowns with his 72nd score, breaking the record by the great Mike “A-Train” Alstott.

Evans would finish the night with 6 receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown and is on pace to once again eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving yardage mark.

There was a bit of a scare in the 4th quarter when Evans appeared to pull something on a reception. He limped to the sideline but was back in a few players later and appeared to be no worse for wear.

As the Bucs continue to get healthier with the expected return of Antonio Brown and Scotty Miller, this offense has the potential to improve on the league’s best scoring offense.

One thing to watch for is Ali Marpet’s oblique injury that knocked him out of the game early in the first half. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious. Reserve guard Aaron Stinnie was pressed into action and did a solid job as Brady was rarely harassed or hit all night.

Four

While the defense did some great things, Tampa Bay is still missing some impact plays from its two highly paid star outside linebackers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. The pass rush from the edge was decent, but inconsistent all night as the elusive Jones kept dancing out of sacks. It wasn’t until the Giants basically gave up that Jones was finally brought down, and that was after the Bucs had emptied the bench in garbage time.

JPP did bat down a pass and some of Barrett’s hurries did force important incompletions, so it’s not to say the Bucs edge duo didn’t effect the outcome, but we’re used to seeing JPP and Shaq get to the QB and bring him down (and maybe even force a turnover or two). That’s two weeks in a row they didn’t have a sack, although Barrett did have 2 QB hits.

Devin White, on the other hand, continued to play much better. He was solid in coverage all night, tied for the team lead in tackles, and deflected a pass that was intercepted by Mike Edwards.

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka also was felt and played a lot more in this ball game. If the Bucs can get JPP, JTS and Shaq to the QB a bit more consistently, this defense could take things to the next level.

Five

As we reflect on the first 10 games of the season, it’s thanksgiving – the time to give thanks for some of the blessings we have.

I’m thankful Tom Brady chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as his last stop before riding off into the sunset of his multi-hall of fame career (I say multi because the G.O.A.T. has put up numbers better than some Hall-of-Famer QBs since turning 40. He honestly has had multiple Hall-of-Fame careers in just one career if you break up his career into decades).

I’m thankful Bucs GM Jason Licht, after stubbing his toe with his last choice for Head Coach, brought in Bruce Arians, who would coax Tom Brady to Tampa Bay and restore glory to a franchise that had seen way too many lean years.

I’m thankful the Bucs are relevant again. These past two years have been so much fun. I can’t wait to see our first home playoff game at Raymond James Stadium since 2007 (not counting Super Bowl LV, of course).  I’d love to see the Bucs host the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 1979, but they have a lot of work to do to get there.

I’m thankful that Licht was able to keep this team intact in the roster and coaching staff. While it has led to some complacency, we know when championships are at stake, familiarity will be crucial. I also think the Bucs work better when they’re “doubted”.

I’m thankful Raymond James Stadium is sold out and has once again become a tough place for opponents to come into and win. Tampa Bay now has a 7 game home winning streak and is 10-3 with Brady as the starter at home.

Finally, I’m thankful for you, dear reader, for taking the time to read my nonsense week in and week out. I don’t pretend to know what I’m talking about but I sure hope I at least provide you with some entertainment.

Six

Yes, the Giants are now 3-7 and yes, they looked positively hopeless against the Bucs on Monday night. Yet let’s not forget that this same Giants team upset playoff contenders New Orleans (with Jameis), Carolina and Las Vegas. They lost by 1 point to the Football Team, 3 points to Atlanta and Kansas City, and held the Chiefs to just 20 points.

They’re nowhere near the Bucs’ talent level, but they were one of these pain-in-the-backside teams like the Washington Football team that could sneak up and pull off an upset.

So while Monday night may have felt like a boring, ho hum blowout win, it’s not usual for that to happen to the Giants, especially coming off a bye week where they had two weeks to prepare for Tampa Bay and got several of their stars back.

This was an important statement win for Tampa Bay to show the rest of the NFC that they indeed do care about winning another ring and they’re not going to be satisfied with what they’ve already accomplished.

Seven

This week couldn’t have gone much better for Tampa Bay, especially in the NFC South. All three South rivals took losses, as the Saints continued their freefall, getting blown out by the Eagles. Atlanta got destroyed and shut out on national television by the suddenly resurgent Patriots and while Carolina was on the Cam Newton hype train, Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Football Team put their workman hats on and worked the Panthers in a stunning road upset. The Bucs now have a full two game lead in the South, which could be even larger before they take the field on Sunday, as Thanksgiving night New Orleans hosts a very ticked off Buffalo Bills team that is desperate for a win.

Things went well for Tampa Bay in playoff seeding as well. The Bucs moved back to 3rd overall, as Dallas was beaten by Kansas City, and Green Bay was shocked by Minnesota in a thriller. Green Bay beats Tampa Bay for the second seed based on conference record. Arizona got a win over the fading Seahawks, so unfortunately no help there but Tampa Bay remains in the thick of it in the NFC.

Eight

Next up for the Bucs is a very tough road matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. Indy is red hot, winning four of their last five after a 1-4 start to the season. The Colts boast one of the best rushing attacks in the league, led by NFL MVP candidate Jonathan Taylor, whose 5 touchdowns buried the Buffalo Bills in a blowout loss on Sunday.

Indianapolis has the league’s best turnover ratio, an eye-popping +25, and lives off the turnover – so the Bucs have to protect the football and avoid beating themselves – something they haven’t done consistently on the road in 2021.

DLT’s Who To Root For This Week

NFC Playoff Standings Table
Tm W L T Position Reason
Arizona Cardinals (1) 9 2 0 West Champion
Green Bay Packers (2) 8 3 0 North Champion
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3) 7 3 0 South Champion head-to-head record
Dallas Cowboys (4) 7 3 0 East Champion
Los Angeles Rams (5) 7 3 0 Wild Card #1
Minnesota Vikings (6) 5 5 0 Wild Card #2 conference win percentage
New Orleans Saints (7) 5 5 0 Wild Card #3 strength of victory
San Francisco 49ers 5 5 0
Philadelphia Eagles 5 6 0 head-to-head record
Carolina Panthers 5 6 0
Washington Football Team 4 6 0 head-to-head record
Atlanta Falcons 4 6 0
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/23/2021.

At this point, only Dallas has a larger lead in their division than Tampa Bay does, and the Bucs may match that if things break right this week. Of course, the Bucs need to pull out a tough road win in Indianapolis, but even if that doesn’t happen, these games can help Tampa Bay out.

Thanksgiving

Bears over the Lions – Helps the Bucs’ strength of schedule and strength of victory tie-breaker metrics.

Raiders over the Cowboys – Keeps Dallas reeling and solidifies the Bucs place in the NFC playoff picture.

Bills over the Saints – A fourth straight loss by the Saints would put the Bucs 2.5 games up on the entire NFC South and if the Bucs win on Sunday, a 3 game lead in the division with six to play.

Sunday

Jaguars over the Falcons – While it may be better for Tampa Bay if Atlanta won this game to improve on the Bucs SOS and SOV tie-breaker metrics, keeping the Falcons reeling with a game coming up against them in a couple of weeks may be better for Tampa Bay.

Dolphins over the Panthers – Keep hanging L’s on Cam’s crew. Miami has been playing much better of late, winning 3 straight games so it’s not out of the realm of possibility they could put the beat down on Carolina.

Patriots over the Titans – for SOS and SOV tie-breaking metrics.

NY Jets over the Texans – Improves the Bucs’ strength of schedule metric with a date with the Jets later in the year.

Rams over the Packers – With Arizona off this week, the Rams cannot take over the lead in the NFC West, so they’re locked into the five seed. A win by LA over Green Bay combined with a Bucs win in Indy moves Tampa Bay to the number two seed in the NFC. While the one seed is definitely the prize because of the bye week, the two seed is just as important, as Tampa Bay would be guaranteed two home playoff games (assuming they win the first one) and have a decent shot at hosting the NFC Championship if the NFC West champion gets upset.

Monday

Washington Football Team over the Seahawks – Helps the Bucs’ Strength of Schedule metric.

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