The Buccaneers social media team puts out a ‘3 Keys to the Game’ tweet each week. I usually follow it and retweet with a 4th key to the game. This week’s 4th key was “Protect Tom Brady!” Maybe that’s what they meant by a balanced offense, but I certainly thought it was related to the pass and run instead.
The offensive line was horrendous in week 9 against division rival New Orleans Saints with Ali Marpet out with a concussion. None of us need to be reminded how bad of a game that was on all sides of the ball.
Bottom line is on offense. You can’t score if your offense isn’t moving the ball, and there was just no way Brady could run a game plan when he has no time in the pocket to make a decision.
With Marpet out, the Bucs put in Joe Haeg in at left guard in week 9. It proved to be one of many pitfalls leading to the 38-3 loss. In week 10, they adjusted the line and put Ryan Jensen in at left guard, and put AQ Shipley in at Center. Best move EVER!
Jensen was highly effective, providing much needed relief on the blind side. Shipley did not disappoint other than that one offsides call on Tom Brady when he didn’t get the snap. Which, by the way, Shipley said he took full ownership of that penalty on the Pat McAfee Show.
It was Jensen and Shipley that created the hole that Ronald Jones II ran through for the 98 yard run down the seam for a touchdown giving the Bucs a 27-17 lead over the Panthers in the 3rd quarter.
Speaking of Rojo......remember that ‘balanced offense’ key to the game? The Bucs have placed the counterweights nicely this week and found the equilibrium Brady and team have been hoping for.
Even without the 98 yard run, Jones still nearly got 100 yards on 22 carries (not including the 1-98 yard run), while all receivers were able to accrue a total of 28 completions for a total of 341 yards. That comes out to a total of 544 yards to Carolina’s 187.
A balanced team is an autonomous group of people with a variety of skills and perspectives that support each other towards a shared goal. ... It has all the resources and authority it needs to complete projects on its own. It values cross-disciplinary collaboration and iterative delivery. - Oxford English Dictionary
Not only did the Buccaneers need a balanced offense, but they needed complete balance on all sides of the ball. Antonio Brown was put in as the kick returner with Jaydon Mickens out on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. They found a way to score with Ryan Succop’s leg. Succop was perfect in field goals hitting 4/4.
The defense took a long time to warm up. Basically, it took them the entire first half. My initial thoughts were they were playing tighter and shutting down the run (good). I’ve been super critical of the soft coverage the secondary has had over the past several weeks, so it was refreshing to see a little bit of man coverage.
But then, after the Rojo fumble, Bowles put them back into zone and they went right back to playing soft. The Panthers exploited it, and just as we saw with New Orleans, a fresh face on the field was able to dupe the Bucs into allowing a touchdown. Colin Thompson pulled in not only his first touchdown, but also his very first catch in the NFL. You just can’t allow that! Probably one of the biggest defensive misses all game long.
DJ Moore had Mike Edwards beat on a few occasions. Luckily the deep ball ended up not being a catch, but in my notes (granted it had a bit of emotion tied in), I put in large letters, “HUGE PROBLEM!” Just bad timing to allow a deep pass like that after we just scored. We couldn’t afford the back and forth, and needed the defense to make a serious stop.
I’ll touch on this briefly, but it’s worth noting. The Panthers started finding ways to exploit the defense even more. It looked like Jason Pierre-Paul was getting blocked out and ran on all first half, so much so that Shaquil Barrett had to come over and provide relief. He definitely managed to redeem himself though later in the game with a sack, interception, a tackle for loss, and two QB hits. Great rebound to save the game defensively, otherwise it would have gone back and forth all day long.
All-in-all, this was a great game and a confidence booster for the 7-3 Bucs as they continue to march through their toughest part of the schedule. Todd Bowles still needs to tighten up the secondary and get that defense going early, and Brady needs to find consistency and keep the balance.
As many praises as we’re singing after the win, this just sounds all too familiar. We were singing the same praises after weeks 6 and 7. I think just about everyone was claiming the offense was “firing on all cylinders” and the defense was “dominating.” Then there was the narrow escape from New York, followed by the dumpster fire at home against the Saints. Are we to expect the same emotional roller coasters week in and week out?
The Bucs Nation want to see consistency and control as the team heads into their two biggest games of the year. In week 11, Brady will be up against the best defensive lineman to play the game, Aaron Donald. That offensive line will be tested to the max on both sides. The defense has to shutdown Jared Goff and not allow Cooper Kupp nor Robert Woods from making plays on them downfield.
Bucs face off with the Los Angeles Rams at Raymond James Stadium on Monday Night Football. Kickoff is at 8:15 pm ET on ESPN. Let’s hope the Primetime Curse isn’t real, and they can keep the momentum going.