Ah victory, how we missed thee. Its the sweet nectar of the Gods, bringing forth warmth and happiness. We had forgotten what it was like, haven't we Buc fans? For 12 months, the Buccaneers hadn't won a game that mattered to anyone but themselves.
Facing a football team as dysfunctional as they were, the Bucs found a way. Was it a thing of beauty? Yes. Because it was a win. Did it cure all the ills that have been plaguing this team? Yes, because it was a win. Can we discount all the coaching and player blunders that continue to plague this football team? Yes, because it was a win.
Okay, no not really. The Bucs are still the Bucs and did everything they could to blow a 15 point lead and hand over the win to Miami Dolphins. Miami, grateful guests, said, "No, no Tampa Bay. This is your night. Here, take it."
And for once, the Bucs did.
1. You have to feel for Mike James. He was rolling out the gate and it looked like it was going to be a repeat of last Sunday's performance against the Seahawks. Unfortunately, driving towards the endzone, a Dolphins player fell on James' ankle ending his night and his season. As it is in football, one player's unfortunate tragedy is another's opportunity. For one night at least, Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey continued the Bucs' running game churning. After James left with 41 yds on 5 carries, Rainey picked up the slack, rushing for 45 yds on 8 carries and Brian Leonard pounded out 57 hard earned yards on 20 carries. In all, the Bucs pounded the run for 145 yds and for the second straight week took the pressure off of young Glennon.
2. No, it wasn't a banner night for Mike Glennon but he showed poise in overcoming that horrible interception in the 4th quarter that seemingly iced the game for the Dolphins. Glennon still directed the Bucs on a 9 play 80 yard drive that resulted in Bobby Rainey's 1 yard scamper around the edge for a touchdown.
The kid is doing better. Am I convinced he's better than Bridgewater or Mariota? No. But there's worse quarterbacks in the NFL. Glennon is a capable starter in this league - of that I am now sure. Glad he got himself a win.
3. I have to say, on the night the Bucs retired Warren Sapp's jersey and number 99 took his place in the Ring of Honor, the defense played a terrific ball game. When you limit an NFL team to 2 yds - just TWO yards - rushing, that's a special performance. Miami mustered just one solid drive the entire ball game, a 9 play, 75 yard drive at the end of the first half.
The other 13 points were set up by special teams gaffes and Mike Glennon's seemingly game killing interception.
Sure enough, when Glennon's interception was returned to the Bucs 7 yardline, it looked curtains for the men in red and pewter. There were many a fan wearing red that got up and left.
The defense, who played their hearts out, could have easily quit. They could have gone all "aw shucks, not again," and packed it in. Instead, they stuffed the Dolphins, pushed them backwards and forced Miami to settle for a field goal.
Then, after the Bucs snatched the lead back the defense had to hold that lead for 10 minutes and 19 seconds - an eternity in NFL terms - especially for this football team.
They would force a Dolphins punt on the ensuing drive, allowing the offense to get the football back and bleed 4:17 off the clock.
Three minutes remained...how many times had we seen it, Bucs fans? The defense fighting all game long only to watch it slip away in the waning seconds.
According to reports, LaVonte David was on the sideline telling - no - leading his teammates, saying, "This is not going to happen. Right here, right now, we're going to get this."
Instead of watching helplessly as the Dolphins drove down the field for a game tying field goal or game winning touchdown, the Bucs defense rose like 99's great old Bucs defenses used to. They sacked Tannehill twice and then Darrelle Revis sealed it with an acrobatic interception.
At least on this one night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense learned how to close out a game.
4. It was good to see coach Schiano embracing Gerald McCoy in the thralls of victory. Schiano may not be an NFL coach but he's a good man and despite what we've seen reported, seems to be well liked by his players. You know, sometimes it takes a little bit for players to understand where a guy is coming from and for that guy to understand where they are coming from. Winning football games in the second half of the season is going to be the only way these guys continue to grow. For one night though, it felt like a weight was lifted off of everyone's shoulders.
5. In the euphoria of victory - we can't lose sight of how the Bucs handed this game on a silver platter to the Dolphins. I ask you, why is Michael Koenen on this football team? Koenen makes $3.25 million dollars (an insane number for a punter) to out kick his coverage and to shank punts? If you pay a punter $3.25 million dollars - you expect that dude to be among the league leaders in punting average. Koenen is 30th. You pay him that amount of money to pin teams inside the 20 yard line. Koenen is 22nd in the league in doing that. You expect your punter to kick it so high and so far that there's no chance for a return. Koenen is 28th in punt return yardage against.
Koenen's horrid punting cost the Bucs 10 points (although on that return the entire special teams unit was culpable) in a close game. The Bucs can get a scrub punter that makes the league minimum to do the same things Koenen is doing for $3.25 million dollars of cap space.
6. Huzzah, the Bucs scored a second half touchdown! But that third quarter...yeesh. I honestly do not believe it's lack of adjustments costing the Bucs out of half-time. I just think this football team loses its momentum, it's edge. I remember Sam Wyche's teams had similar issues. It got so bad the team actually practiced half-time.
The problems in the 3rd quarter weren't schematic. When you have drive killing holding penalties, stupid personal fouls and other nonsense that just shouldn't be happening 9 games into an NFL season, you can't blame half-time adjustments. That's just players being plain dumb.
7. Eric Page is thoroughly frustrating. For every spectacular return young Page makes, he does something completely idiotic - like that personal foul penalty following a Miami punt. There's absolutely no reason for it. It's just plain stupid.
8. Speaking of stupid. It's great having Dashon Goldson back. He makes a huge impact in the Bucs secondary and without him, things get pretty shaky back there. But come on Dashon, can we have one friggin game without you getting a personal foul?
9. Can the Bucs go on an improbable run and save Schiano's gig? Not if they continue to play like they did on Monday Night. Yes, the Bucs played hard - but they played stupid. Stupid gets you beat and the Bucs should have lost again last night. You can't have personal fouls. You can't have holding calls. You can't throw interceptions. You can't stunt your way out of pressure and not touch a quarterback who has been sacked 35 times until the final minute of the game.
10. In the end though, victory is sweet. It was awesome to do it in front of a national television audience on Monday Night football with the all of the football world watching. It was fun to see them do it on Warren's night. It was fun to see the horde of Dolphin fans go home frowning (By the way, it seemed that all 20,000 Dolphin fans who go to their games in Miami made the road trip to Tampa).
For at least one night, the second part of the traditional chant starting with "TAMPA" didn't end in "SUCKS".