Not the way you wanted to end your holiday weekend. After going 3-1 in the first and second quarters of the season, the Bucs have dropped three of their last four and now sit at 7-5 on the season. They’re barely hanging on to a wild card spot while the division leading New Orleans Saints are rattling off wins without a quarterback (granted, they beat a Denver team that literally didn’t have a quarterback so it is what it is).
There haven’t been any adjustments, we’re seeing the same stale play calls we’ve seen week after week, and for some inexplicable reason they keep pulling Ronald Jones off the field to put in Leonard Fournette.
Let’s pick six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Slow starts are killing this team. And it isn’t just on one side of the ball. Both the offense and defense in this quarter of the season are getting their doors blown off in the first quarter. The Bucs have been outscored 52-7 in the third quarter of the season and haven’t had a first drive touchdown since week four. It’s inexcusable, it’s stubbornness from the coaching staff, and it’s a complete disconnect from the players on the field. You can’t beat playoff caliber teams when you’re too busy beating yourself. They have no chance of winning a playoff game if they can’t get things started on the right foot in these games. I know the last four games are favorable from the outside looking in, but Minnesota is starting to catch fire and the Falcons are 4-2 since Raheem Morris took over as the interim head coach. The Bucs have to find their “A” game this last month of the season.
2.) Stop using Leonard Fournette. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again - I like Leonard Fournette. I thought he was a good addition to this team. However, Ronald Jones has proved to be the guy deserving of the snaps and carries that Fournette keeps getting. You mean to tell me that in a goal-to-go situation, you like your chances giving the ball to Fournette on first and second down more than your chances giving RoJo the opportunity? That’s either completely stupid or the person - whether it’s Arians or Leftwich - making the decision is too stubborn and thick-headed to change. Taking RoJo out of the game and giving these snaps to Fournette is costing this team scoring chances. And we all saw what Jones can do in the passing game. The only time RoJo should come off the field is when he asks to catch his breath. That’s it. I’m having Charles Sims flashbacks and I hate it.
3.) Mindless penalties. And no, I’m not talking about that bogus roughing the passer call on Jason Pierre-Paul. This team had back-to-back offsides penalties on Kansas City’s opening drive. They had another one when it was 1st and 20 against Suh that negated an interception and the drive ended in a touchdown. These are stupid, mental mistakes that the Buccaneers can not afford to make against teams like the Chiefs. You can’t beat the best teams in the league when you give them free yards and extend drives.
4.) Play calling. Look, I’m not diving into this too deep. You all know the issues. You see as much as I do that the Bucs have success chipping away down the field with underneath passes and scheming their pass catchers open on intermediate routes. Yet - again, whether it’s Arians or Leftwich - they keep calling for huge shots down the field that aren’t working. They aren’t using any motion to get the defense to tip their hand even a little, they’re running go route after go route, and the protection isn’t there to give Brady enough time to hit the passes. Now, that’s not to say Brady hasn’t missed on some golden opportunities because he certainly has, but why do they keep going away from what’s working? You dink and dunk long enough and guess what - the only field left is the painted one where you get six points. And as for the defense, why did it take a full quarter and 17 points by the Chiefs before they finally started giving Carlton Davis help with Tyreek Hill? Why? No defender in the NFL can keep up with Hill or stop him one-on-one. It’s not like there isn’t film on this dude. And you wanted Davis to shut him down by himself? That’s on the coaching and game planning, not Davis. All these mistakes are what put the Bucs behind the 8-ball from the jump and this coaching staff is supposed to be too smart to let that kind of stuff happen.
5.) Is the Evans/Brady honeymoon over? Mike Evans had nine targets and only came away with three receptions. Granted, two of those three were touchdowns, but we saw on the tv broadcast that the two were having a bit of a disagreement on the sidelines after an interception by Brady. It’s not like Brady and Evans are the only two that haven’t been on the same page. In fact, it seems as though there are multiple occasions each game where the Bucs’ quarterback expects his pass catchers to do one thing and they do another. These guys have been playing together for twelve weeks and the kinks should have been worked out by now. I don’t know what kind of pow-wow they’re going to orchestrate during their bye week but this stuff needs to be fixed by time the Vikings game comes up.
6.) All that said, stop overreacting. I’ve gotten tweets and messages about how the Bucs need to clean house, how Brady was a waste of money, the whole coaching staff should be fired this week, etc. No. No on all accounts. I realize that moral victories are dumb but on the flip side, this is what all the people that are complaining have also been asking for over the last decade - relevant games in December. Normally by now, we’re talking draft. The Bucs are still in line for a playoff berth. Have the Bucs met expectations? No. Were a lot of people’s expectations too high? Undoubtedly. Look, it wasn’t “Super Bowl or bust” in 2020. They signed Brady for two years. They’ve made moves to give themselves the best chance to win one in 2020, but let’s be real - there is nothing normal about 2020 or this NFL season. The teams with the best chance to win in 2020 are the ones that didn’t make sweeping changes in the off-season. It’s the ones with continuity. You can call it an excuse all you want but that’s the reality of the situation. There’s a difference between a reason and an excuse and the Bucs’ struggles on offense is because of the way this off-season went down. That’s the reason. Period. Going to be a long two weeks as they head into the bye, but the Bucs have a chance to make the playoffs - and that’s something every Bucs fans has been begging for since 2007.
Six Numbers To Consider
11 - Touchdowns by Mike Evans this season, one shy of his single-season career high
.788 - Winning percentage of the teams the Buccaneers have lost to in the third quarter of the season
28 - Passing touchdowns by Tom Brady, second most by a Bucs quarterback in a season
.394 - Winning percentage of the teams left on the Bucs’ 2020 schedule
29 - Career 100-yard regular season games by Rob Gronkowski, second most by a tight end in NFL history (Tony Gonzalez - 31)
8 - Forced fumbles by Shaq Barrett since 2019, tied for most in the NFL
Six Best Tweets
Bucs' running back usage is hard to understand. Ronald Jones caught a 37-yard touchdown for the Bucs' first score in the second quarter, then had one pass thrown his way the rest of the game. Had a 34-yard run with 3:27 left in the third quarter, got one touch rest of the game.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) November 30, 2020
Bucs gonna be on the road all playoffs. Tom Brady playing chess while the rest of the league plays checkers pic.twitter.com/kkv8arB2RP— Steven Cheah (@StevenCheah) November 29, 2020
NFL playoff standings, assuming Packers, Seahawks, Steelers win this week— John Sigler (@john_siglerr) November 30, 2020
7. Cardinals @ 2. Seahawks
6. Bucs @ 3. Packers
5. Rams @ 4. Giants (yuck!)
7. Colts @ 2. Chiefs
6. Dolphins @ 3. Titans
5. Browns @ 4. Bills
This was so nice. pic.twitter.com/AhKOXsR93w— Paige Dimakos (@The_SportsPaige) November 29, 2020
To be fair, it’s not really the Bucs fault. The Chiefs are very well coached with the talent they have, and the Bucs aren’t, so.— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) November 29, 2020
It takes exactly -7 minutes for me to remember why I HATE @CBS football coverage.— What the Buc (@WhatTheBuc) November 29, 2020
Six Ways To Spend The Bye Week
6.) Play Madden and call offensive plays that actually work so that it doesn’t take an epic comeback to win. Also, leave RoJo in.
5.) Might as well get those Christmas decorations up that you’ve been putting off...
4.) Re-watch the Bucs/Packers game and remember how good things were. Also, good chance they meet again in round one of the playoffs...
3.) Hop on that treadmill and start shaving off all that weight you gained over the weekend since you inexplicably made the same amount of food for Thanksgiving that you always do before realizing no one was coming over to celebrate and eat with you so you just ate it all out of sheer guilt and resignation...
2.) CYBER MONDAY, BABY! Shop til you drop!
1.) Re-watch the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run. All the games they won re-aired on NHL Network over the weekend so hopefully you had that DVR set to record.
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Kansas City Chiefs - Yeah, they’re back on top. I don’t think the Steelers can beat them.
2.) Pittsburgh Steelers - Then again, Kansas City might be the only team they’d lose to.
3.) New Orleans Saints - Winning with a running back at quarterback. And don’t think I didn’t see all those retweets from Saints Twitter accounts when I was tweeting about the Chiefs’ successes - y’all still have to face them, too.
4.) Green Bay Packers - Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams are on fire
5.) Tennessee Titans - Derrick Henry is an unstoppable force
9.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Get your act together during the bye then come out swinging in week fourteen
Six Final Words
Much needed break for these Bucs