The Buccaneers have defied all odds through two weeks of the season after defeating the reigning NFL Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles here at Raymond James stadium yesterday. The team came out the shoot firing thanks to an explosive opening play from scrimmage that saw DeSean Jackson stretch the field deep near the hashes for a 75 yard touchdown play. The final score, 27-21 Buccaneers, correctly predicted by yours truly as there is a first time for everything, should be sending shock waves across the NFC South. Some post game reactions from each side of the ball are as follows.
Offense, offense, offense...
The way the offense is attacking defenses through the air is a thing of beauty. Fitzpatrick is being given all the time he needs to complete passes and make things happen. Fitzpatrick was more than comfortable in the pocket yesterday and he consistently found the open receiver. Godwin, Howard, Jackson and Evans all caught touchdown passes as Fitzpatrick went for another 400 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air.
While the air raid offense was in full effect, the running game for the second week in a row struggles to get consistent yards. The team got what it ultimately needed, despite how bare minimum it may have been, out of Peyton Barber and company. As a unit, the running backs toted the ball 22 times for a total of 44 yards rushing including Shaun Wilson’s lone carry for 9 yards. Ronald Jones was again inactive and with each passing week that he sits on the sideline and the team struggles to run for a better clip than 3 yards a carry it begs to have the question answered, could Ronald Jones help this team?
The offensive line did what it needed to do, they held the Eagles front four at bay and gave their quarterback time to pick apart the defense. Ryan Jensen did have an unnecessary penalty but ultimately the group appears to be gelling well on the field and that is a great sign for this football team.
The last item on offense I want to touch on is O.J. Howard and the freak of nature he is. Many of us told fans that he was much more than a blocking tight end, you couldn’t take what his statistics at Alabama were and say he wouldn’t be a pass catching tight end in the league. Through two weeks, O.J. Howard is showing everybody why he was the 19th overall selection in 2017. Howard currently has 150 yards receiving and a touchdown on 5 catches that includes a 3 catch for 96 yard game yesterday with a terrific 75 yard catch and run for a touchdown. O.J. Howard has grown and the offensive play-calling is utilizing his athleticism. It’s a thing of beauty right now in Tampa Bay.
The defense brought the heat early.
In yesterday’s game Jason Pierre-Paul and Gerald McCoy gave fans a reason to believe in this newly built front four. Pierre-Paul and McCoy each came away with a sack and routinely put pressure on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. Carl Nassib could be seen fighting in the 2nd half off the edge to put pressure on Foles and flush him outside the pocket and the overall intensity of the unit up front was a pleasure to watch. The front four still need to do a better job late in games coming up with sacks but it was a positive game none-the-less.
Linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David did more than their fair share of work in this ballgame combining for 16 tackles, a sack (Alexander), forced fumble (Alexander) and a fumble recovery (David).
The young defensive backs impressed in this match-up, none more so than Ryan Smith. Smith played the game of his life recording 7 solo tackles and a few key plays on defense/special teams including two pass breakups. Stewart and Davis got extended time again thanks to injuries to the starting duo of Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III and fellow rookie Jordan Whitehead got his hands dirty with 6 total tackles.
The one player that I’d like to key in on with the defense is Noah Spence. No Spence didn’t dazzle on Sunday, instead Spence spent his time inactive as Carl Nassib has taken full reign of the role that was expected to be held down by Spence. Nassib finished the game having played 43% of the teams snaps against the Eagles. Bucs Nation’s own Jon Marchant touched on this in his most recent piece on the 2016 draft for the Buccaneers here.
Not so Special Teams
It’s somewhat commonplace around these parts to just expect sub-par special teams and yesterday was little different. Chandler Catanzaro missed an extra point and Adam Humphries struggled to be average as a returner. Jackson returned one punt for 11 yards while Humphries got 13 yards on his lone kickoff return and averaged 6 a return on punts.
The bright spot on special teams had to be reserved for Brian Anger and his secret weapon... Ryan Smith. Smith made a couple brilliant plays on special teams in this ball game, none more pleasing to Buccaneer fans than this hit right here.
The final reaction to this game is simple, this can be a very fun team to watch this season. There is a lot of football left but after two weeks, this team has proved many outlets wrong about who they are as a football team and while playoffs shouldn’t necessarily be the focus after two weeks, this sure does look like a playoff caliber team. Jameis will be available soon and with Fitzpatrick playing lights out, it’ll be a nice “problem” to have if this offense keeps firing on all cylinders. Buccaneer fans, it’s time to be proud of what this team has accomplished so far. As always, Go Bucs!