Now that's the kinda ugly football we were expecting this year wasn't it Buc fans? The defense playing lights out, Jameis struggling to find his way but getting it done in the end. Old school Tony Dungy Buc Ball at its finest.
It was ugly. It was heart pounding. It was something this team desperately needed.
- It seems to be in Bucs' fans DNA to downplay victories. In New Orleans, it was Drew Brees got hurt. In Atlanta it was the Falcons fault. This week we're seeing comments, "Well it's a Cowboys team that's lost 7 straight games." Why do we have to take away from the Bucs' tremendous defensive performance?
This Cowboys team took their last four opponents to the razor's edge of defeat (including the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks in Seattle). Matt Cassel, the QB everyone says isn't Tony Romo, threw for 299 yds and 3 touchdowns against next week's opponent Philadelphia. Coming into the game, Dallas' offense ranked 17th in the NFL. Darren McFadden was second only to the Rams' Todd Gurley for rushing yards in the last three weeks.
The Bucs played a terrific defensive performance - it was a game we've been waiting all season for the defense to produce. You hold an NFL offense - any offense - to just 6 points and 216 yards, you played a hell of a ballgame.
It was exciting to see Lovie finally use Lavonte David to his strengths, blitzing him, allowing him to attack the line of scrimmage and David responded with his best game of the season, 12 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QBH and a tackle for loss.
While McCoy didn't show up on the stat sheet, it was night and day from last week. Instead of being blown off the ball, Gerald held his own, penetrated and wreak havoc with the Cowboy's potent running game.
While the pressure wasn't what was needed, they still secured three sacks against one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and pressured Cassel into errant throws.
If you would have told me three weeks ago that Sterling Moore and Jude Adjei-Barimah would shut down Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham, Jr. in consecutive weeks I would have called you crazy.
And don't look now, but it appears the Bucs' defense has fixed their red zone issues.
There was still the maddening personal foul penalty (I'm looking at you Henry Melton) but it was a great game by the defense.
- Jameis Winston had a really rough outing in this one. He was high on his throws most of the day, was picked off twice in plus territory and nearly fumbled the game away at the goal line (saved only by defensive holding penalty).
With all that said, man Jameis is a gamer isn't he? After driving the Bucs from their own eight yard line 79 yards down the field and into scoring territory only to see Dallas get another tipped interception, then after a defensive stop, driving it right back down the field again, never flinching, never blinking.
His 4th quarter numbers were marred only by the interception - 11-16, 125 yds, 1 int, 1 rushing td.
"He rallied us. On the last drive, he told us he was going to lead us down, and he did," Bucs center Joe Hawley told the Tampa Bay Times, "That last drive, he said, 'I promise you guys, we're going to get this into the end zone.' "
That's what leaders do. That's what gamers do. Even on his fumble, he saw that Dallas was holding the receivers, it was 3rd and goal and it was up to him to try and get it in the end zone. He soared through the air just as he did the week before, giving up his body for his football team to win. Unfortunately, he gave up the ball, too. The refs made the proper call as the Cowboys mugged Russell Sheppard (of all people).
Jameis was asked about the fumble after the game, he replied, "I don't know what you're talking about." Snap and clear.
What a gutty call by Dirk Koetter putting it back in Jameis' hands the very next play when everyone in the stadium thought the Bucs would play it safe and pound it with Doug Martin. Of course he would. If there's one player who will do anything and everything in his power to get it over the goal line, its Jameis Winston.
- Jameis continues to put decent numbers but the offense in recent weeks has certainly bogged down in the red zone. I think part of it is missing Vincent Jackson. With ASJ out since week 2, the only receiver Jameis can trust is Mike Evans and we know its always a 50-50 ball with Mike. Adam Humphries is a nice little player and Dontae Dye does have his moments, but neither are Vincent Jackson or Seferian-Jenkins.
So Jameis is trying to finish drives using his legs. While he's no Cam Newton, its been effective on goal line situations.
With that said, you can just feel a big Jameis game coming soon, maybe as soon as next week in Philly. There's going to be a 300+, 3 TD pass game from the Bucs' franchise QB.
- With the weapons in the passing game limited, both the Giants and Cowboys resolved to take the Bucs' running game away and force Jameis to beat them. Doug Martin pounded out a tough earned 63 yards rushing while the Bucs as team were held to just 84 yards in 26 attempts.
The loss of Ali Marpet was definitely felt, as the Bucs didn't get the same push they have been in the past.
- The Bucs are still getting idiotic penalties. Donovan Smith with three - not one, not two but three - false starts is inexcusable. Henry Melton's personal foul got the Cowboys out of a deep hole in their own end. While the Bucs were driving late in the game, a holding call on Gosder Cherilus. On Dallas' final drive, the personal foul on the kickoff that was attributed to Mike Jenkins (I don't think it was actually Jenkins, though) and gave the Cowboys a flicker of life. You just can't continue have these mental errors.
The Bucs will never move beyond an also-ran until they can clean these errors up.
- Now the next question is can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win back-to-back games? Philadelphia has an identical 4-5 record to Tampa Bay and it looks like Sam Bradford will either be playing injured or out and Mark Sanchez in his stead for Sunday's game. If the Bucs can get a win in Philly, they'd be back to .500 after 10 games. Tampa Bay hasn't been .500 or better this late in the season since 2012.
Its too early to discuss playoff chances but win in Philly and we may have to consider the possibility.