The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Chicago Beras by 36-10, grabbing their first home win of the season and moving to a 4-5 record. The game was never close, and the Bucs defense was especially suffocating.
Last season the Bears were part of that four-game skid that ended the season for the Bucs. That game, like the one this afternoon, was in Raymond James Stadium. It was a game where Tampa really struggled to control the clock and get their offense going at all, not to mention was another disappointing performance in front of their home crowd.
This year fans were told things would be different. Specifically, they were told the offense was going to be different. They were told that having the ball was about scoring points, not just controlling the pace. But so far this season, that promise had not been kept. Tampa's schedule has been tough, there's no doubt about it. They've had to play the league's No. 1 offense in Atlanta twice already, and have gone up against great AFC teams like the Broncos and Raiders.
Such a schedule had left the Bucs still winless at home on the season. That meant that this game at home versus the struggling Bears was important. Not just to stay close to .500 in the standings, but also looking down the schedule and realizing that if they couldn't win this one, the wins from here on out would be hard to come by.
The offense struggled early on. There were a couple three-and-outs and it was an overall slow performance from the play calling. The offensive line was the main culprit as the group had a hard time containing Bears linebackers Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd on the edge. So as the offense struggled, it was up to the defense to give them a boost, and boy did they do that early and often against the turnover-prone quarterback of Chicago, Jay Cutler.
Bad placement by Cutler, but great job by Grimes to get the bigger Jeffery off his route and disrupt the timing for this INT. pic.twitter.com/LoAPiHR53T— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) November 13, 2016
For weeks Bucs fans had been begging their defensive coordinator Mike Smith to turn up the pressure, and for weeks, their desires went unfulfilled. This week things finally changed. Tampa was getting in the face of Cutler as often as they could, and the result was plays like the one above. Knowing Cutler's tendency to try to fit the ball in tight windows, Tampa played pass rush and press coverage. Though they didn't bring extra pressure on the interception above, the press coverage itself was able to disrupt the timing of the throw which forced the miss.
CHRIS CONTE READS YOUR TWEETS pic.twitter.com/c2bnDWSK6k— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) November 13, 2016
In the play above, Cutler's second turnover of the game, The Bucs did bring added pressure from their linebackers, and it resulted in another poor decision. Chris Conte has been on the receiving end of some heavy criticism this season (rightfully so), but it was good to see him get this one, his first career touchdown. The added pressure made it an easy one for him.
Hey! Look! Tampa brought extra interior pressure to free up the edge rushers which forced a bad throw on third down! pic.twitter.com/p6eyq2TssW— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) November 13, 2016
Even when the pressure wasn't forcing turnovers, it was effective in terms of stopping drives. The play above was an excellent example of that. On third and long, an obvious passing situation, Tampa brought heavy pressure up the middle to overwhelm the interior protection of the Bears. This allowed for one-on-one blocks for Tampa's edge rushers who were told to just rush the outside of the pocket with speed knowing the added pressure from the linebackers would take care of things in the middle. The result was a rushed throw and a punt. Simple stuff -- in theory.
NOAH SPENCE STRIP-SACK TURNOVER IN THE RED ZONE pic.twitter.com/GhtarUjsUD— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) November 13, 2016
From those moments on we saw this Tampa defense play at a gear we haven't yet seen this season. The front four defensive linemen were flying all over the field. It was as if each was hungry to make the next play after watching their teammates make the plays before them. For Bucs fans, it was a lot of fun to watch the defense come alive like they did.
As for the offense, it was a great day, but a day not many expected in terms of who produced the points. For the early portions of the game, receiver Mike Evans was barley targeted. What Dirk Koetter was doing was using the extra attention being given to Evans by the Bears defense to his advantage. On almost every play, Chicago was designating a safety to spy Evans, no matter what his route was. Knowing that would be the case, Tampa started isolating Evans on one side of the field and stacking three receivers on the other side, throwing it that way instead. The touchdown to Cameron Brate above was a good example of that. Brate, who finished the game with seven catches for 84 yards and touchdown, was a big part of how the Bucs moved the ball without targeting Evans. Brate ran all sorts of routes over the middle and was open all game due to a mismatch of speed with the linebackers who were covering him at the line, and the lack of help over the middle due to the safety spying Evans -- who was never going to get the ball. Offensively and defensively, even against a poor Bears team, this was Tampa's best game of the season in terms of game plan and execution.
This is one of the most incredible football plays I've ever seen in my life. Ever.— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) November 13, 2016
Jameis. Freaking. Winston. pic.twitter.com/6YwWGpiJmc
When it was working -- and I have to use the word "when" because the offensive line was so bad early on -- Tampa's offense was pretty methodical and controlled with good play calling an execution. However, Bucs fans now know it wouldn't be a Jameis Winston game without a little Houdini act. This week, he gave us his greatest trick yet, and one of the most incredible football plays I've ever seen in my life.
After that tweet, I quote tweeted it and said, "There is only one quarterback in the National Football League who can make this play.... and he made it." I got a handful of responses telling me Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers (even Eli Manning) could do the same. Talent wise, they may be right. But, there is no quarterback in the league -- those guys included -- who would drop that far back, switch fields that many times and take on that many rushers before throwing the ball away, especially without the situation requiring a Hail Mary. Winston is starving to move the ball down the field. No other quarterback is that dumb and that incredible at the same time, and, dammit, Tampa's really lucky to have him.
In conclusion, let's be honest, the Bears are bad. They're poorly coach, have holes on their roster that include some key injuries and have a loose cannon at quarterback. But these are the kind of games you have to win, especially at home. Today, the Bucs beat a team they were supposed to beat, and they gave their home crowd a show while doing it.