WOW. Are you kidding me? Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers came out in New Orleans and out dueled the high octane, sexy Super Bowl pick Saints by a score of 48-40. The offense was nearly unstoppable and the defense came up in big spots when needed. Add all that up and you have the upset of the week and a Buccaneers team in first place in the NFC South.
Who would’ve guessed that would happen heading into the season?
It was a crazy game that definitely kept the blood pressure spiked all the way to the end. Let’s Pick Six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
- Todd Monken Is THE MAN. - When was the last time we saw the offense click like this? Fitzpatrick finished with 417 passing yards (a career high) and four touchdowns as well as one more on the ground. The Bucs had two receivers combine for 293 yards and three touchdowns. They had two touchdowns of 50+ yards. You could tell an obvious difference in the playcalling, performance, and execution of the offense from the word go. Koetter made the right call to give Monken the reigns and the Buccaneers will reap the benefits.
- Pass Rush Was Decent, But Not There Yet - As the game went on, the pressure continued to get to Brees. However, the line just couldn’t seem to finish things off. If they continue to trend in that direction, this will be a formidable crew. They still have a long way to go, but things certainly aren’t as bleak as last season - or as they looked in preseason. Vinny Curry was able to get the lone sack of the day for either team, which certainly helped. As for the secondary...
- Secondary Still Leaves A Lot To Be Desired - Yes, Brent Grimes was out and that didn’t help. Once the Bucs lost Vernon Hargreaves III after he had a key pass break up, Drew Brees was able to absolutely shred the secondary with no resistance. Granted, the soft coverage and prevent defense Mike Smith was calling didn’t help matters any, but the rookies still have quite the learning curve to adapt to - especially if Grimes and VHIII are going to miss significant time.
- DeSean Jackson Is Who We Thought He Was - When the Buccaneers signed DeSean Jackson, this is what we had visions of. Receptions of 58 yards (touchdown), 36 yards (touchdown), and 35 yards were exactly what we thought we would see on a week in, week out basis out of the speedster. Now, just have to hope that the shoulder injury isn’t serious and the concussion doesn’t linger...
- Mike Evans Gets The Monkey Off His Back - Historically, Mike Evans has not done well against the Saints. We’re talking about 25 receptions for 300 yards and two touchdowns in seven games. His career high in yards against the Saints was 97, coming in 2016 and he’s had four games under 50 yards - one game with zero. Not great. On Sunday, Evans exploded for 147 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions and those seven receptions came on seven targets - a 100% catch percentage for the fifth year receiver. The Bucs needed every inch of his yardage to beat the Saints and Evans was clutch all day long.
- Relax - Bucs fans everywhere are going to be over-the-moon hyped after this win. Enjoy it, yes - but keep things in perspective. It’s only one game. Don’t get too high off the highs or too low off the lows. The Bucs still have business to take care of, massive improvements to make, and have the defending Super Bowl champions headed to town. No, they won’t have Carson Wentz or Alshon Jeffrey - but they didn’t in week one either and still beat Atlanta. Their defense is no joke and the Buccaneers will have to be every bit as efficient on offense as they were against the Saints to steal another win. Things look good, but it’s a long season.
Six Number To Consider
48 - Most points scored by the Buccaneers in franchise history, including three previous times - most recently in Super Bowl XXXVII against the Raiders
0 - Turnovers by the Buccaneers’ offense
33 - Evans’ career touchdowns, second all-time in Bucs’ history - and only one behind Jimmie Giles
31 - First half points by the Bucs, the most in franchise history when on the road
2001 - The last year the Buccaneers scored more than 30 points in the first half of a game
9 - Number of 20+ yard plays by the Buccaneers
Six Top Performers
6.) Chris Godwin - Nearly had a 100+ yard game had Fitz not had one rare miss on a deep pass, but Godwin had the catch of the day as well as a phenomenal touchdown in the first half. Wasn’t the “light up the stat sheet” day I predicted, but a solid start to his sophomore season.
5.) Kwon Alexander - Not a great opening drive for the linebacker, but Kwon settled in and finished his day with nine tackles, one for loss, and a key forced fumble on Michael Thomas late in the game.
4.) Peyton Barber - Rough second half, but Barber ran hard all day long. Barber ended up with 69 yards on 19 carries for a 3.6 yards per carry average - that was after averaging over eight per carry in the first half. When the Bucs tried to run out the clock, the Saints sent the house after Barber. Solid game - and a bright future ahead.
3.) Mike Evans - Seven receptions, 147 yards, one touchdown, and a 21.0 yards per catch average. Elite performance. Evans also climbed higher in the Bucs’ record books and will likely break two records next week against the Eagles.
2.) DeSean Jackson - Five receptions, 146 yards, and two touchdowns. DJax finished with a 29.2 yards per catch average, he battled back after injuring his shoulder on the first drive, and was a major impact player all game long.
1.) Ryan Fitzpatrick - A career high 417 passing yards to go with his four touchdown passes. Then add in 36 rushing yards - including the crucial eleven yard scramble to end the game - and a rushing touchdown and Ryan Fitzmagic was the best performing quarterback in the NFL in week one. Because, who didn’t see that coming?
Six Best Tweets
These are the six best in-game tweets, in no particular order
Checking that Bucs-Saints score in New Orleans and seeing that Tampa has a 31-17 lead before halftime https://t.co/vx0J4742kh pic.twitter.com/Ofk8prxREP— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 9, 2018
417 yards, 5 total TDs. pic.twitter.com/o1Iu1nnVMa— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 9, 2018
This next one was a big ol’ oops, huh?
@bwallstreet1335 @TampaBayTre @SaintsCSC @Bucs_Nation #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/vOvkhcM5sc— Alex Awe (@WreakHavocTB) September 9, 2018
Watch the face plant by Lattimore...
Mike Evans #GoBucs #TBvsNO pic.twitter.com/S57lloZPeP— Zac Blobner (@ZacOnTheMic) September 9, 2018
Too many out there can relate;
When DeSean Jackson is on your bench. #fantasyfootball pic.twitter.com/NvaNABTw19— Jill Reale (@TheRealeDeal) September 9, 2018
Bucs win the season opener! Hard fought game, with plenty of momentum to build upon.#GoBucs | #TBvsNO pic.twitter.com/2xNGPiiHqd— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 9, 2018
Six Super Bowl Best Bets
1.) Minnesota Vikings - Still think they’re the team to beat in the NFC. They have the QB in place
2.) New England Patriots - Until someone knocks them off...
3.) Philadelphia Eagles - Escaped Thursday with the win. The defense is one of the best and just have to tread water until Wentz returns
4.) Jacksonville Jaguars - Statement win on the road. The Jags defense is still a force to be reckoned with
5.) New Orleans Saints - Don’t get it twisted. This team started 0-2 last season and were a fluke play from the NFC Championship. They’re much better than they looked on Sunday and are still legit contenders
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I expect hand written apologies from every “expert” that picked the Bucs to be the worst team in the NFL and finish with one or two wins. You know who you are.