It's real. After last week's amazing upset of the Kansas City Chiefs (who by the way, went to Denver and beat the Super Bowl champions in overtime), many wondered if the Bucs just happened to catch the Googly Moogly's looking ahead.
This week, the Bucs faced one of the elite teams in the NFC, a team that might be playing for Lombardi in early February. They didn't just beat the Seahawks - they dominated them with a defensive effort that would make Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch proud.
It was a game that was old school Bucs and maybe the best performance we've seen from a Buccaneer defense in over a decade.
1. Alterraun Verner suffered a huge tragedy, losing his father the day after Thanksgiving, yet played and dedicated the game to him...and he played by far his best game as a Buccaneer. He looked like the Pro Bowl corner the Bucs signed a few years ago, picking off Russell Wilson ended a potential Seahawks scoring drive, making 2 more outstanding pass defenses and keeping the speedy Tyler Lockett on lockdown (6 targets, no receptions).
After his pick, the entire Bucs defense surrounded him as he was visibly emotional on the field. Family. That's where it begins, folks. These players love each other and that's how you become a team. Our condolences to the Verner family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.
2. The Bucs defense was simply dominant. Like I said in the open, it was a performance we haven't seen in ages. They were good in Kansas City. They were superb against Chicago and solid against Carolina. But this was old school open up a can of whupass defense that Tampa Bay fans were used to seeing during the glory years.
Six sacks, six tackles for loss, eleven QB hits, three turnovers forced (against a team that had turn the ball over 6 times all season), it was an amazing sight to see.
Russell Wilson posted the second worst QB rating of his NFL career and the worst since his rookie season. Doug Baldwin, whose been deadly all season, managed just 34 yards receiving.
Tyler Lockett was shut out. Buc killer Jimmy Graham was held in check and fumbled in one of the biggest plays of the game.
A Seahawk offense that came in averaging 28.5 points per game in their last four outings was held to 3 points and that was thanks to a pass interference call (that while it was a foul, seemed a bit ticky tacky considering the grabbing and holding the Seahawks secondary did the entire ballgame).
Folks, the Seahawks never entered the Bucs red zone. Their deepest penetration was to the Tampa Bay 27 yard line.
Welcome back Lavonte David. We missed the playmaker version of you. Gerald McCoy and Noah Spence were manbeasts and it looks like Bucs GM Jason Licht may have found himself another scrapheap superstar in Ryan Russell.
3. The most frustrating thing about this game was while it really wasn't ever in doubt, it felt like it was and that's because the offense kept shooting itself in the foot. Doug Martin's fumble. Aguayo missing a field goal (although the wind was swirling a bit in the stadium and it was a long one), the Bucs having a touchdown wiped off the board thanks to a marginal hands to the face call and Jameis throwing an ill advised interception on the next play.
The offense got two quick touchdowns and nada the rest of the way. Granted, the Seahawks are an elite defense but without Earl Thomas, one of their starting corners and Michael Bennett, this Bucs needed to put more points on the board and left a lot of them on the field.
4. With that said, how about Mike Evans? If he isn't in the Pro Bowl this year, they should just cancel the damn gamn because it's a flipping joke. Evans v. Sherman was classic football magic that is why we love this game so much. Now, Sherman wasn't on Evans for all of his catches, but on the second touchdown you could see Evans clearly beat Sherman for the score. Whenever Sherman is whining to the officials, good things have happened. What's funny is on that play, Sherman was grabbing and holding Evans all the way down the field. Did Evans create a little seperation at the end? Sure. Personally, considering how much the Legion of Boom gets away with grabbing, holding and interference, they have no business whining for calls.
Evans on the day - he caught 8 of 11 targets for 104 yard and 2 touchdowns. He's over 1,000 yards for the third straight year and in double figures in touchdown receptions for the second time in his career.
He has become an elite wide receiver in the NFL and the Winston-to-Evans connection is going to be something to see for a long, long time.
5. The Bucs defense was excellent on third down this week. Getting off the field is one of the most important things you can do as a defense, especially against a quarterback the caliber of Russell Wilson, and the Bucs excelled at it Sunday. Seattle didn't convert a third down until their final drive of the game and finished 1-of-11 on third downs.
6. Jameis played yet another solid game. He was spectacular in the first half, 15 of 19 for 157 yds and 2 touchdowns but as the Seattle defense made its adjustments, the offense began to pound the football and took the ball out of the hands of their second year quarterback. Winston only attempted 9 passes in the second half, completing 6 for 63 yards.
Jameis made two ill-advised throws in the game, one on a deep shot to Cecil Shorts in the first half. Shorts was double-covered and the Seahawks safety should have picked it off. The second was the interception in the end zone. You just can't make that throw in that situation (even though Evans was clearly held on the play).
With that said, Jameis again moved around the pocket (when he had to), made plays and was what we've come accustom to week in and week out now. For those keeping track, he's 5-2 in his last seven games with 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. That's pretty darn good.
7. I'm not one to blame officiating or say the Refs are biased for one team or another. I will say though, that Refs give "the benefit of the doubt" to the good teams. That's why you don't see holding calls when one of Tampa Bay's defensive linemen get tackled on a Russell Wilson scramble. Why the Bucs get called for a P.I. but the Legion of Boom can grab, hold and obstruct wide receivers with reckless abandon. Why we get that ticky tack hands to the face call on Demar Dotson to wipe out the Bucs' third (and possibly game sealing) touchdown of the game. Why a Seahawk player can take a cheap shot at Joe Hawley's beard and not get a personal foul.
What I can't get though, is the final play of the first half. Cameron Brate, clearly knocked out of bounds, but the Refs wind the clock and the Bucs run out of time. After the game, referee Bill Vinovich explained that the reason the clock was allowed to run was that Brate was hit in the field of play and his momentum was stopped, which means he didn't get out of bounds.
I'm sorry, that's horse(bleep). In fact, I saw the exact same darn thing happen in the Denver-Kansas City game. Kansas City receiver got blasted by a defender and knocked out of bounds - what did they do? You got it. They stopped the dang clock as anyone with common sense would have done.
It robbed the Bucs from at least attempting an Aguayo field goal and padding their lead.
8. I can't get out of this Diatribes without commending the offensive line on one heck of a performance against one of the league's premiere pass rushes. Jameis Winston truly had all day to throw. He wasn't sacked and only endured three QB hits the entire ballgame. Yes, Seattle was without some key parts but their defensive line is still elite with Cliff Avril already at double digit sacks and Frank Clark at 7.5. Seattle came into the game among the league leaders in sacks.
Add to that, the Bucs pounded out 118 yds against one of the top run defenses in the NFL.
Yes, they still had a few of those maddening, drive killer penalties that just drive you nuts, but overall a terrific day by the big guys.
9. Next up, the Bucs head out to the site of their greatest triumph, San Diego, home of Super Bowl XXXVII where the Bucs destroyed the Raiders for their first (and only) Super Bowl championship. This one won't be an easy game, either. The Chargers have quietly put together a run of their own, winning 4 of their last 6 including wins over Atlanta, Denver and this week, Houston. San Diego is of course led by Phillip Rivers, always one of the best QBs in the league and they are actually one of the top offenses in the league (ranking 8th in yards and 4th in pts scored). They've scored at least 20 points in all but one game this season.
The Chargers defense leaves something to be desired, as they are near the bottom of the league in points allowed (26.5, which ranks 25th). They did hold the Texans to 13 points this week, though.
10. DLT's Game Tweet of the Week
I guess they did enough.
BONUS: I just wanted to mention it was my first opportunity to check out the new Raymond James Stadium experience and it really was phenomenal. What a difference the upgrades made. It felt like a completely new stadium.
With that said, the Bucs need to work on the courtesy and friendliness of their staff. We had an usher in our section who would not allow you to go back to your seats if you couldn't show him your ticket - and the rub - he saw you come up from your seats. The problem for us was, because we bought the seats online, they were digital. There wasn't a physical ticket to present and my buddy's phone died from taking too many pictures. He paid $115 for endzone seats and couldn't sit in the seats for half the game while he searched for a place to charge his phone.
Ridiculous, Bucs. You want to know why you have trouble filling the stands? Stupid crap like this.