1) So here we sit after another Bucs win, where the heart's urge to praise our team overwhelms the mind's insistence that this win was still a cause of worry and concern.
Look, I enjoyed the win. I loved it that our defense woke up after the sleepwalking they fell into against the Panthers last week. I squeed like a fangirl for every sack, every INT, every fumble, every Lavonte David appearance, etc. I respect the fact that our kicker Rian Lindell actually made a 53-yarder when the game wasn't entirely on the line. I sympathize with the Bills fans considering that your Buffalo squad was just as idiot-prone regarding brain-fart penalties the way our Bucs can be (and were today).
But my mind still focuses on the facts that our offense outside of one beautiful run play was horrible today. My mind is still on the fact our offensive game plan consists of "Run Up The Middle" with the occasional and not-very-helpful "Throw Deep". My mind is on the dumb penalties, the personal fouls, the false starts, the problems with player substitutions that you'd think would have been hammered out well beyond preseason jitters.
In short, I still think the Bucs have a terrible head coach who hinders this team more than improves it.
Also, I still have a bit of a crush on our Bucs Cheerleaders.
2) Player of the game: He's been the Bucs' nomination for Defensive Player of the whole damn NFL this season. I'm talking about LB Lavonte David. He snagged two interceptions (one was almost ruled a fumble, but the Bills player didn't have full control of the catch, and so David was credited with the INT) and registered a sack. He's the seventh player in league history to have 5 sacks and 5 INTs in one season (even Ronde Barber, the career master of Sacks and INTs, never had 5 each in one season). When he's on the field, the Bucs defense is 33 percent better. He's the best linebacker we've had since Derrick Brooks. He makes a good MLB like Mason Foster even better, and a backup guy like Dekoda Watson look like a starter (oh right he was).
2a) The truly lone bright spot of the Bucs offense today: RB Bobby Rainey getting a good block in the First Quarter and just cutting it loose on afterburners getting an 80-yard touchdown run to get the Bucs up 7-0 and never looking back. It was, amazingly enough, the longest touchdown run in Bucs history (I thought Doug Martin had it last year, but it was actually Mike Pittman with a 77-yarder back in 2003 I think). When Martin and Mike James come back healthy we are going to switch to Auburn's Run-Only offense gameplan and go to the Super Bowl that way.
2b) Back to defense. I mentioned Mason Foster a second ago. He was second on team in tackles and garnered an interception, and was part of a scary-good LB corps today.
2c) While I admit playing a bad team like Buffalo could make any defensive line look good, for today we looked like a team that doesn't need to draft DE. Line had a total of 4 sacks out of seven, with rookie William Gholston getting 1.5 credited to him today. If he keeps developing like that, 2014 is looking good.
2d) Darrelle Revis wasn't beat too often today and got a sack.
2e) Mark Barron didn't look beat too often either (there might have been one missed tackle there) and also got a sack.
2f) Credit to K Lindell for a 53-yarder. Yes, you're not the guy we trust, but you did good today.
2g) Gerald McCoy is still a beast, getting 1 key sack in the 4th Quarter and part of an impressive pass rush today. He deserves to START in the Pro Bowl, NFL fans. Start picking him.
3) Goat of the game: Gotta go with the Bills offensive line. You guys just got shredded today. Your rookie QB Manuel had 13 hits, 7 sacks, an infinite number of pressures, and a partridge flying off of the pear tree because, damn, you sucked.
3a) For all of Manuel's woes for Buffalo, at least he got yards and decent receptions out of his WR crew. Our QB Mike Glennon passed for a TOTAL OF 90 YARDS. Glennon may have thrown out there two TDs but he also threw two foolish INTs into the wrong coverage, and acted jittery all day unable to find open receivers. I wonder how much of that is due to a Bucs offense that doesn't seem to scheme out any decent 8-12 yard short passing routes that Tight Ends would excel at...
3b) To be fair to Glennon, his number two WR for the day Tiquan Underwood had a nasty case of the DROPS. There were, what, three easy one in his hands? Maybe two and I got him mixed up with a Bills CB dropping a potential INT...
4) Stats of the Day: Penalties. The Bucs racked up 8 this day for 76 yards. The team passed its 100th penalty of the season this game, leading the league I believe, and of course the 100th penalty was a PERSONAL FOUL (/headdesk).
For once, the Bucs were outclassed in the penalties numbers with the Bills racking up 11 for 111 yards. That and the dominant defensive gameplay were the only reasons the Bucs won today.
4a) This stat almost got listed as the primary, it was so bad: 9 receptions-25 pass attempts. 36 percent completion. When a team's offense is that unable to get downfield, the ONLY way that team wins is through Defense (or the sheer grace of God).
4b) Glennon's QB rating was 40.1. This is even with 2 TDs thrown, because of the lousy yards (90), pass percentage (9-of-25), and well due to the 2 INTs. Think about this: EJ Manuel had a QB rating of 31, and that was with 4 INTs!
4c) This won't show up in the Box Score but the CBS sports crew flashed it just before the 4th Quarter ended: the Bucs offense generated -7 yards for up-to-that moment of the Second Half. Granted we quickly got a 10-yard run play out of backup RB Somebody Someone (help a Bucfan out, refresh my memory in the comments!). NEGATIVE OFFENSE IN THE SECOND HALF. That is ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW about Schiano's inability to adjust during Halftime and coach to wins in the times it really matters. We'd be 8-5 and in the playoff hunt if Schiano game-managed 4th quarters better.
5) In other NFL news: I watched the first half at a sports bar, and believe me there was something heartwarming to watch a Bucs game in sunny, Florida-esque weather (camera shots of the bay!) while on five televised games in Washington, Philly, Baltimore, and Green Bay it was snow, snow and more snow. The Lions-Eagles game deserved to be delayed for Monday, I swear they shouldn't have played in that blizzard.
5a) Atlanta is SOOOOOOO tanking this season. They are officially Clowning for Clowney at this point.
5b) If Houston can fire Kubiak, why can't we FIRE SCHIANO?! ...oh, right, the bastard won today (mutter grumble)
5c) 49ers are gonna kick our ass next week, I guarantee it. If they win today (likely) they will definitely get within reach of winning the division over a very good Seattle team, and beating us will get them so much closer.
5d) DAMMIT CLEVELAND YOU HAD IT IN THE BAG, MAN, YOU WERE BEATING THE PATRIOTS!
It wasn't even in snowy conditions, you FOOLS...
5e) Dear Pittsburgh: next time you guys try to pull a last-second Lateral Miracle, you better have the Stanford Band marching onto the field to pull it off. Pfft. Posers.
6) Speaking of college football, I will state again for the record that my mom is a huge Auburn alum sports fan (my love of sports all comes from her). She has basically endured... THE BEST F-CKING MONTH WAR EAGLE FANS HAVE ENJOYED IN LIKE EVER.
A miraculous Hail Mary Almost-INT Bounced Into His Hands Like a Gift From God TD reception to win over Georgia.
A well-coached (yes, it wasn't a miracle, Saban got out-coached because like all SOOPERGENIUS coaches Saban goes conservative at the wrong time) kick return of a failed Bama FG try that turned Chris(t) Davis into an Auburn player who will never have to pay for a dinner or a drink at a War Eagle sports bar ever again.
A OMG CAN THE BUCS BORROW YOUR RUN PLAYS slugfest against a high-scoring Missouri team (I sympathize Mizzou, 42 points in ANY OTHER GAME would have won ya a BCS title invite) where Tre Mason makes a one-game case for the Heisman Trophy running for 303 yards, making 4 touchdowns, creating 400 references to De La Soul (90s hip-hop band, one of the dudes is his dad) on ESPN, and adding to a 500-plus running game you'd swear never used a wishbone lineup (honest to God. It has 4 plays: Tre up the middle. Tre off-tackle. A WR sweep-around, and a QB keeper. THAT'S IT. AND IT WORKS).
6a) As a Gator alum, watching Urban (I Thought You Quit For Health Reason) Meyer get beat by a defensively good Michigan St. squad WITH A SPARTAN OFFENSE was a decent amount of Schadenfreude. It also helps my Mom enjoy THE BEST MONTH EVER by virtually guaranteeing an FSU-Auburn title game.
6b) As a Gator alum, I hate the Noles more than I hate Auburn. WAR EAGLE.
6c) DAMMIT NORTHERN ILLINOIS YOU HAD ONE JOB. BUST THE BCS. YOU COULDN'T EVEN BEAT BOWLING GREEN. /headdesk
6d) As a Bulls alum as well, all I can say about a terrible 2-10 season for South Florida is that we Can And Should Get Better Next Season. But the dream of being a high-quality Division I school challenging the likes of UF, FSU and UM are long gone. UCF has taken that mantle now... damn them. Damn you Skippy Holtz for your laid-back failure to recruit... Damn you Jim Leavitt and your Anger Management issues...
7) In baseball news, honestly David Price? If Seattle comes knocking with a high-price contract offer to trade for you, DON'T TAKE IT. Teams that try to build through pricey (Cano is getting HOW MUCH?) free agency acquisitions suck the following years due to terrible chemistry (SEE 2013 Toronto, 2011-12 Boston, pretty much New York Yankees sans the one year out of, what, 15 after signing A-Rod? they actually won a World Series).
8) In hockey news, just a little more consistency out of the Lightning every game night wouldn't hurt...
9) In Christmas news, the War On Saturnalia continues apace with Bill O'Reilly shilling another year of non-controversy over people blaspheming by saying things like "Happy Holidays" or "Festivus For the Rest of Us". /headdesk
10) Next up: Bucs play their last home game on the year with the visiting Super Bowl contending 49ers. I'm not hoping for much (other than Schiano getting out-coached like always).