The Buccaneers have propelled themselves into the 2020-2021 NFL Playoffs with a win over the Detroit Lions in dominating fashion. The final score, 47-7, and the entire Bucs Nation is extremely elated! This is the team’s first trip back into the playoffs since 2007 where they unfortunately lost against the Giants who would eventually go on to win the Super Bowl that year.
It’s really difficult to find many things to critique with this week’s game. I think the Bucs coaching staff may have finally figured out a way to come into a game with a strong plan and execute on it. Or did they?
Let’s keep in mind the team they played. It’s a team that’s been struggling since week 1. They were only in year two under Head Coach Matt Patricia. They were dealing with COVID-19 opt outs, no off-season, and what’s worse is that they were decimated by injuries throughout the year starting off with the big loss of their star receiver Kenny Golladay. Then, they fire General Manager Bob Quinn and Head Coach Matt Patricia mid-season.
Coming into week 16 the Bucs still haven’t been able to piece together a full four quarters of football. This game should’ve honestly been a lot closer than it was, but the Lions suffered even more tragedy as nearly their entire coaching staff had to be quarantined due to COVID-19 protocols the week of. This left Sean Ryan, the Lions’ quarterback coach, to call plays for the very first time. Then the interim head coach Darrell Bevell had to sit out, which resulted in the wide receiver’s coach Robert Prince to step up as the last man standing.
As Evan Winter stated on the Bucs Nation Podcast Week 16 Instant Reactions episode, the Bucs played a full game in the first half. Statistically speaking, it appears they did. Brady had a phenomenal half throwing for 348 yards, 4 touchdowns, and obtaining a perfect passer rating. Not many quarterbacks can throw up those kind of stats in a full game let alone only a half.
A full game is not two quarters though, it’s four. That seemed to resonate a lot more last week as the Bucs had to claw their way back against the Atlanta Falcons. I’m just a firm believer that you always finish strong. If the score ends up being 70-0, then so be it. There are no mercy rules in NFL Football.
This was simply a good situation for the Bucs coaching staff and starters to get four full quarters of consistent action in, improve the game plan, communication, and fine tune the situations as a starting unit. Consider it real-time practice if you will. Instead, the coaches benched Brady and Fournette. Then they slowly started benching the defense, including the secondary that was already down a man (Carlton Davis) and still struggling to consistently defend against the pass.
With all that said though......that’s my biggest critique, but overall I’m just as elated as any other Bucs fan is right now. It was a really well played game. It also proved to me that we have some serious depth on this team. Blaine Gabbert came into the game and put up some decent stats (9/15, 143 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions). Ke’shawn Vaughn came in and took full advantage of the opportunity and put up nearly all of the Bucs rushing stats (15 car. 62 yards, 4.1 ypc).
Jeremiah Ledbetter and Anthony Nelson both got their first career sack, while Herb Miller caught his very first NFL career interception to close out the game. Miller was elevated from the practice squad due to Carlton Davis missing the game.
I think the one thing that excited me the most was how many weapons came out to shine this week. It was like an Oprah giveaway, “YOU get a touchdown, YOU get a touchdown.......YOU get a touchdown!”
Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Leonard Fournette (rush) all got single TDs while Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans reeled in two touchdowns a piece. Mike Evans broke his own single season receiving touchdown record (13), while Brady broke Winston’s single season touchdown record (36).
The game was really exciting though. It left you scratching your head a little bit at times, but overall the Bucs came out and played some good ball. All I want to see them do is to consistently piece it altogether and come out and finish strong playing all four quarters.
Since the NFC East is apparently still up for grabs and now the controversy coming out of Washington, who knows who the Bucs will be playing after solidifying the No. 5 seed with the Seattle win on Sunday.
Stay tuned to more reactions and preview of the upcoming second round against Atlanta on the Commissioner’s Corner Fantasy Football Show as well as the North & South Podcast on the Bucs Nation Podcast Channel.