As I watched Doug Martin tear off long run after long run and the Bucs' rookie QB Jameis Winston tie NFL records, I had to pinch myself a little. It wasn't what I expected, but something I had hoped for.
I told you in last week's diatribes that Jameis was due for a big one. While he still hasn't passed for 300 yds in a game, we all know this week it was just because Doug was tearing apart the Eagles on the ground. Jameis could have thrown for 400 but it wasn't necessary.
What he did do was something no other Buc rookie QB has ever done. Something Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Montana...any of the guys that dominate the NFL record books, have ever done.
Let that sink in for a moment and I'll get back to him in a sec.
- It all started up front. Its laughable now isn't it, Buc fans? How we wringed our hands worrying about putting our prized possession behind a sieve of an offensive line starting two rookies. Well, Sunday, this offensive line blew the Eagles off the line of scrimmage - and folks, we're not talking the Jacksonville Jaguars here. We're talking a defense that only surrendered 20 pts a game. They have a talented front seven and big, opportunistic corners.
The offensive line mowed them down like they were an Arena League team. The Dougernaut was of course phenomenal, but if it wasn't for the o-line blowing holes open and getting him to the second level untouched it wouldn't have been that kind of day.
If it wasn't for Donovan Smith manhandling blitzing linebackers and attacking defensive ends, Jameis wouldn't have been able to spread the ball around like he did.
BTW, another reason to ignore Pro Football Focus grades. Donovan Smith was given a -1.1 performance. WHAT? Are you freaking kidding me PFF? In fact, the entire offensive line earned negative grades from that farce of a website.
Sorry, I'm digressing. The Bucs offensive line dominated the Eagles and were the start of all the good we witnessed on Sunday.
- The Bucs defense struggled its first couple drives of the game before settling down and playing some really great football against a difficult offense. The Eagles up tempo offense can shake the best of defenses and Tampa Bay looked a little shaky early on.
"You can practice all you want, but you're not ready for it until it comes at you," safety Chris Conte, told reporters after the game. "Once you calm down, you realize it's not that fast. They're running the same plays over and over again."
And that is the dirty little secret of the "revolutionary" Chip Kelly offense. It's not that revolutionary. It just comes at you quickly with a small subset of plays they run over and over until they're perfect at it. Once the Bucs settled down, they built upon their strong showing against Dallas last week and really limited the Eagles offense from really being a factor in this game.
While the offense rolled, the Bucs defense was pitching 3-and-outs and forcing turnovers. Gerald McCoy showed up with 1.5 sacks and Lavonte David continued his return to prominance with 2 interceptions (one he took to the house to complete the 40-burger for the Bucs).
Tampa Bay forced 4 turnovers and had a fumble recovery robbed from them on the first drive of the game. Jac Smith recoverd an Eagle fumble, rumbled down the field and appeared clearly down by contact. Everyone saw Smith was down, so much so the Bucs offense and the Eagles defense took the field. Well, everyone but referee Brad Allen, who inexplicably upheld the call on the field despite clear visual evidence that Smith got not one but both knees down before losing the football. The Eagles would go on to score against a stunned Bucs defense.
Thankfully, the offense got the Bucs back in the game, the defense settled down and Doug began running all over the Eagles.
- What can you say about Doug Martin? 941 yards on the season with 6 games to go, the Dougernaut has definitely found himself in a contract year. Martin seemed unstoppable for most of the game on Sunday. Even when the Eagles keyed the run, Martin still burst through for 4 and 5 yard chunks. It was a desperately needed performance from a good running back.
- What a difference having Vincent Jackson back for this offense huh Bucs fans? Mike Evans can be Mike Evans, the defense has to respect the passing game, Humphries can go to his appropriate place in the slot (where he's coming along nicely) and of course, Vincent makes his impact felt with his route running. For those Buc fans hoping Tampa Bay can reclaim some of V-Jax's cap space by jettisoning him, not so fast my friends. Vincent Jackson is still a crucial piece to the Bucs' offensive pie.
- Jameis Winston tied the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes in a game and came within an Adam Humphries dropped pass/holding call away from breaking the record. Only two other rookie QB's in NFL history have thrown for 5 TDs in a game. Matthew Stafford (2009) and Ray Buivid (1937). He broke the Bucs' rookie record for TD passes in a game and tied the team record (shared with Brad Johnson, Josh Freeman and Steve DeBerg).
The amazing thing about his performance was his 3rd down passing. Tampa Bay converted a remarkable 10-of-16 third down conversions and most of them weren't your garden variety 3rd-and-1's folks. We're talking 3rd-and-16 where Jameis converted hitting Humphries or Jackson or Evans or Brate.
Another amazing thing? Jameis thrives on the road. He's fantastic. Elite in road games. Think I'm kidding? Winston has a 107.1 QB rating, has thrown for 1,188 yds, 10 TDs and just 1 int in 5 road games.
I sat there on my couch giggling maniacally like the Joker because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers truly have a franchise quarterback. He's real. He's not a figment of our imagination. He's not a product of hopes and kool-aid drinking. He is the real freaking deal.
And he's only 21 years old.
- What a game Dirk Koetter called. He had the Eagles defense befuddled. The only thing that could stop the Bucs' offense on Sunday was the Buccaneers themselves with penalties. And even then, Jameis and the boys overcame it. I can't believe Koetter got away from Atlanta. Look at the Falcons offense falling apart this year without him.
And don't look now, but the Bucs are in the top 10 in offense. When was the last time that happened? Has it ever?
While I'd never want the Bucs to stand in his way or wish him bad fortune, I truly hope Tampa Bay can retain Koetter and not see him take a Head Coaching job somewhere in the NFL.
I'd love to see what year two with Jameis and Koetter could bring. It could be something very special.
- We've resisted the Playoff talk for a while now because it was hard to see. After the destruction of the Eagles and some fortunate results around the league, you bet your backside the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the hunt. In fact, they control their own destiny. If the Buccaneers win out, they will be in the playoffs. Period. They own the conference record tie-breaker with Seattle and they would have beaten the Falcons a second time, claiming the tie-breaker with them.
Of course, its highly unlikely the Bucs will win out. Still, no one truly believed the Bucs would have a winning November, either.
Looking at Tampa Bay's remaining schedule, they only face two teams with a winning record. One has lost 4 of their last 5 games. The other will likely be resting starters in the season finale as they'll have home field and division title long locked up.
Maybe Jameis is right. Maybe they can go 7-0 on these (bleep). They're off to a great start.