It’s like the football universe is trying to keep the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from reaching their full potential in 2019. Those who have been watching this team closely over the years have thrown around words like ‘cursed’, and some have referred to this team as ‘snake-bitten’.
Of course, those are all just superstitious words with no factual backing. Right?
Maybe not. I mean, how often have we heard of Chris Godwin running an incorrect route leading to a key interception? Or Mike Evans for that matter? Before 2019, O.J. Howard wasn’t the tight end who would essentially hand the ball over to the defense. Now, there are moment in every game where we hold our breath and hope it doesn't happen again.
All of those things factored into early losses which derailed winning record chances from the very beginning. But now, late in the season, the Buccaneers have found a groove. They started putting up points in bunches, and the defense has been holding opponents to field goals and forcing turnovers. And it’s been great.
But the football universe sent a warning shot of sorts, as Mike Evans was sidelined after a long touchdown play in a game where the Bucs got one game closer to even. It was almost like the powers that be said, ‘Have the touchdown. Have this win. But I’m taking Mike. Don’t push your luck.’ And then they threw in a fractured thumb just to drive the point home. The Bucs aren’t supposed to win.
Push they did however, and they defeated the Detroit Lions in their house to get to 7-7. So, the football universe took Tampa Bay’s other receiving stud, and decided to hamper a young receiver just after scoring his first NFL touchdown. Going after the established players is one thing. But for the universe to target the rookies? Now, that’s just low.
Still though, the Buccaneers have maintained their resolve. Still fighting to make it to the end with a winning record and tangible things to cling to as they eye an even more successful future. And the universe struck again.
Jordan Whitehead’s injury in Detroit turned out to be bigger than we’d hoped it would be, and he’s now on injured reserve. Then, just 48 hours from the first snap against the Houston Texans, an ankle injury to Carlton Davis III.
Well played universe. Well played.
But the Bucs have Todd Bowles, and a hungry young secondary who isn’t going to quit just because their most seasoned member in the cornerback group - and former first-round pick at that - was waived and is playing for the other side. They didn’t quit when we all speculated about Sean Murphy-Bunting being a bust, just half way through his rookie season. Or when Jamel Dean gave up seemingly every passing yard and touchdown in Russell Wilson’s career, in just one weekend. And they won’t quit now that their second-year corner who is now the most experienced cornerback on the roster, might be hobbled or miss the game all together.
They’re too resilient for that. And they get that resiliency from their leaders. Todd Bowles is one of those leaders. And coach Bowles is going to have to coach the game of his life if this secondary stands a chance against Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V, and Kenny Stills. Woof.
It’s a tall task. But so was turning around a 2-6 season. This team did that, in spite of everything they’ve been through. So is there anything they can’t handle?
We’re about to find out.