Observations of the Bucs/Seahawks 12/26/10 Sanity Clause Game

1) Right now, let us consider that at the beginning of the year, every NFL scout and beat reporter picked the Bucs to finish this year 3-13 or worse.  That no one had faith in the Bucs' offense or defense doing well.  That Raheem Morris was gonna be on the hot seat early.  That the Bucs were going to fall victim to teams further along the route of rebuilding, like the Browns and the Bengals and the Panthers and Redskins and... and...

Welcome to the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning season.  At nine wins, it's official.  The Bucs have had a very good year.  And with one game to go, they are still in the hunt for a playoff spot.

2) Having said that, kudos to Head Coach Raheem Morris.  He's done something we haven't seen other than Tony Dungy's career here in Tampa: take a raw, rookie-filled squad that had suffered a losing season last year and leading them to a possible playoff season.  It took years for McKay to build a winner: Chucky inherited a winning program  No one has been close.  Considering that the Coach of the Year is given to a guy who makes this kind of huge turnaround in a season, Morris is a prime candidate for the award (gonna have huge competition with the guy coaching the Chiefs though).

3) Player of the Game: Why should we pity RB LeGarette Blount?  He had 18 carries for 164 yards, a career day.  He had a game-film highlight run where he HURDLED a tackler in mid-stride without stumbling.  But he didn't get a TD.  It's gonna hurt his chances of getting Rookie of the Week honors... AGAIN.  Dammit, guys, we're voting for him as much as we can!  Get more voters on the website!

3a) Blount's competition for Rookie honors might be WR Mike Williams.  Only 44 yards catching but 2 TDs, bringing his yearly total to 10... he might be the first double-digit TD WR for the Bucs since the Brad Johnson years.  My God, that's been AGES...

3b) Geno Hayes had no INTs this game.  He overcompensated with two sacks instead.

3d) Michael Spurlock had a few brain fart moments today, but he made up for it with an awesome 8o-yard kickoff run that gave the Bucs excellent field position early on... too bad we ended up with just a FG out of it...

3e) Oh and Freeman threw for 5 TDs in one game, tying a team record and being the first 3-TD-or-more QB since Brad Johnson in 2003.  That HAS been ages ago...

4) The key storyline of the game has been Playoffs (Yes, we're talking PLAYOFFS!).  By winning, the Bucs are still in the hunt for a wild-card.  The bad news?  The Bucs are still on the outside looking in (with the Giants and Packers and Saints making our lives miserable).

5) The storyline we didn't want out of the game: more injuries.  More players falling by the wayside, like WR Benn and FB Earnest Graham.  Benn has been a solid player but our WR corps is relatively deep enough that losing him won't hurt much.  But if we lose Graham, our running attack takes a huge hit...

6) Stats of the game: The Bucs had a 98-yard drive for a TD, tying a team record for longest offensive drive.  The previous record?  It was last year.  I think this team knows how to move the ball...

6a) The Bucs did not force a turnover all day.  The Bucs *did* fumble four times... and lost none of them.  In fact, both teams were turnover-free...

6b) The Bucs kept their penalties down to just three all day.  The 'Hawks had one penalty.

6c) Blount rushed 18 times for 164 yards (breaks out the calculator).  That's 9.12 yards per carry.

7) Guys who deserve making the Pro Bowl for the Bucs:  QB Josh Freeman, TE Kellen Winslow, WR Mike Williams, RB LeGarette Blount, LB Geno Hayes, CB Aliq Talib (he may be out with injury but if he gets enough votes he could still win and the league will just replace him).  Guy who might get in because of his name: CB Ronde Barber.  Guys who WILL make the Pro Bowl?  We'll be lucky if it's Freeman.  Nobody's really been paying attention to how good our players are...

8) Seattle lost today... and they're still in the playoff race?!  If they beat St. Louis next week, they tie up at 7-9 atop the NFC West and Seattle wins the tiebreaker.

9) In other NFL news today... it's COLD OUT THERE!

9a) The playoffs are mostly set for the AFC.  Even the wild cards are lined up for Baltimore and the Jets.  The sole open spot is the AFC South: Indy hasn't clinched, and if they lose and Jacksonville wins, the Jaguars will win the South.

9b) The NFC's playoff spots are mostly set for the division leaders (except the NFC West).  WIld cards are still up for grabs between the Saints, the Packers, the Giants and the Bucs.  Seattle's gotta beat St. Louis to win the fourth division spot.

9c) The draft is mostly set for the first five spots.  Carolina clinched top draft choice... and right now Jimmy Clausen is praying that Stanford's QB Luck stays for another year in college...

10) Next up.  The Bucs travel to New Orleans for perhaps the biggest year-ending game since 2001... or 1981... Can the Bucs beat the Saints to clinch a playoff spot?  Worse yet, will the NFL owners be big enough jerkasses to black out that game?!  They'd better NOT... grrrrrrr.

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