Observations of the "Never Getting the Hang of Thursdays" Bucs/Eagles 10/14/21 Kerfuffle

1) I was on vacation to Virginia the previous weekend, so I missed the Buccaneers victory over the Dolphins. As such most of my observations for the first quarter of the regular season (now at 17 games, kind of go by 5 starts to get the quarterly report in) will rely on the games I've seen... which have been frustrating, headdesking nightmares of missed opportunities and sloppy wins.

1a) I mentioned it with the game opener vs. Dallas, that I loathe Thursday games. Historically the Bucs have been terrible on Thursday nights (so far, our record is 5-8 with a number of embarrassing blowouts) and even against a struggling team like Philadelphia, there were no guarantees this would be an easy win. If the Bucs had advantages, they were with the Eagles QB Jalen Hurts being terrible with the passing game and the Philly D giving up a lot of rushing yards. If Philly had any advantages, it was that Hurts was great scrambling for rushing yards and their defense was in the top five against the pass.

1b) With all that, the Bucs did surprisingly well early on. Tom Brady managed an efficient offense through the First Quarter, getting us up 14-7 at the start of the Second. While he seemingly got flustered during that quarter, the Bucs offense was able to fall back to an improving rushing attack with Leonard Fournette to make it a 21-7 game at Halftime.

1c) If the team made adjustments in the Second Half, the Eagles seem to have made their own, and by the Fourth Quarter the Bucs were not looking at a comfortable 28-7 lead they were looking at 28-14 with Philly scoring late to get it to 28-22 and looking for upset. It did not help that the Bucs played relatively sloppy for much of the game, getting hit with penalties (discuss later) that allowed the Eagles to stay alive while missing chances to increase our score and put the game away.

1d) The end result was still a win, putting Tampa Bay at 5-1 and one of the better season starts in team history. But it came with the caveats that for all our offensive talent we're inconsistent with scoring from game to game; That our defense is not generating the sacks and constant QB pressure we've seen the last two seasons; That injuries are decimating an already thin Secondary that's been lucky they haven't screwed up more often. I'd say it's 60 percent luck that we're not 3-3 (escaping both Dallas and Philly with wins) right now.

2) Player of the Game nod has to go to Playoff Lenny, with Fournette earning the win with 2 rushing TDs with 81 yards, 46 catching for 126 all-purpose, and proving himself the primary running back that gives us much-needed offensive balance.

2a) Vita Vea does not get a lot of statistics but his value on the field always shines through with the constant D-line pressure he brings up the middle, disrupting opposing teams' rushing attacks to make the Bucs the best against the run. This weekend he got himself a sack to help fill his resume for postseason honors.

2b) TE O.J. Howard was gone last year due to season-ending injury, and there were concerns he wouldn't be back for this season. But with the Bucs missing Gronk due to rib injury, the team needed Howard to step up and this game he did, catching six of seven passes thrown his way for 49 yards and the opening TD pass to get the scoring started. Brady needs solid Red Zone targets and Howard gives him one.

2c) With Lavonte David out to injury, our other linebackers needed to step up, and Shaquil Barrett and returning Jason Pierre-Paul teamed up to share a sack as well as making key tackles throughout the night.

2d) You don't see stat numbers for offensive line performance except for the absence of stats: Giving up zero sacks meant they were giving their QB Brady enough time to throw, and letting the rushing game add up 102 rushing yards showed they were giving the RBs room to run. Kudos to Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, and Tristan Wirfs.

3) As mentioned earlier, the Bucs are facing a serious problem with injuries decimating our secondary (and the defense overall). Early against Philly, the recently signed veteran Richard Sherman had to leave with a hamstring injury that is now looking like at least a few weeks on IR. Combine that with the loss of Carlton Davis for a few weeks, and LB David for maybe longer, and Tampa is in a dire situation.

There's not a lot of cap room or roster space to see about signing more veteran cornerback talent: We're looking at the reality that the Bucs are going to be starting at least one backup CB that nobody ever heard of Week One until Bye week gives us a chance to get the original starters back.

3a) If there's any good news, is that some of the early-injured secondary guys like Antonie Winfield Jr are close to clearing their medicals, and the long rest after a Thursday game allows them more rest to heal up.

4) Statistics of the game: First Downs numbers, Bucs had 27 over Eagles 16. Add to that total yards - Bucs had 399 yards, Eagles 213 yards - and Tampa had no problem moving the ball, just had problem scoring more often.

4a) Red Zone Offense: Bucs went 3-for-4 with TDs in the Red Zone, with one missed chance to score again to put the game out of reach. Eagles went 3-for-3, which is why they got back close for the potential upset.

4b) PENALTIES WILL KILL THIS TEAM. Bucs got hit with 7 flags, for a mind-blowing 120 yards(!). The refs flagged the Bucs for a number of pass interference calls that gave Philly first downs and great field position. Some of the flags were bogus, which you can say every game night: However, the type of penalties we were getting hit with were consistent with the reality that our secondary wasn't starting with our best players...

4c) Bucs offense with 34 catches out of 42 throws. Not out of desperation or lack of rushing since the Bucs rushed it 31 times. This is merely a sign of an offensive scheme constantly making plays, eating up yards and clock time, and winning games. With these kind of numbers, we should have scored 42 points, not 28.


5a) That said, just look at who the Jags beat: a shockingly bad Miami Dolphins team sitting at 1-5 and suddenly looking like the worst team in football (worse than the Lions). This was a team that reached the wild card last season, and had supposedly built up around their second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa to challenge Buffalo for control of the AFC East. Instead, they're looking at tanking the season (again?) for another top draft pick for 2022. What the hell happened? From what I can tell, early injury woes exposed how shallow their roster depth is.

5b) If there are any surprisingly good teams in the AFC, it's Baltimore. While they made the playoffs last year and they got a franchise QB in Lamar Jackson, people were thinking they would struggle without a running attack with their RBs all injured in preseason, and with questions about their rebuilding defense. Well, at 5-1 with a great running game today, there are few questions left: Baltimore is scary-good, along with Buffalo as arguably THE team to beat.

5c) In Week One, it looked like the NFC West would be a monster division with four great teams: By Week Six, it's looking like Seattle and San Francisco are pretenders and the Arizona Cardinals at 6-0 (!) the contender, with the Los Angeles Rams wondering at 5-1 why they can't move to the AFC West where that record would put them at the top.

5d) It's nice that the San Diego Chargers are 4-2 with a legitimate franchise QB in Justin Herbert to lead them, but for the Love of God and Football Sanity, they should move back to San Diego where they belong.

5e) Dallas just beat New England in overtime, and it wasn't the only overtime game today (Minnesota beat Carolina earlier). Is it me or have there been more OT games this year...?

6) Okay, time to talk about the scandal hitting the NFL right now.

The revelation about racist and sexist emails shared with now-ex-coach Jon Gruden with his former colleague Bruce Allen - including illicit topless photos of Washington cheerleaders which is part of an ongoing sex scandal involving that team's abuse of those cheerleaders - not only exposed Gruden's horrific back-room behavior but exposed the horrific back-room behavior of a lot of others across the football profession. If you ever look at the hiring practices, a lot of teams circulate the same guys from front office to front office, the same coaches from sideline to sideline. There's a wonderful little fraternity of like-minded guys who keep hiring their buddies because that's their comfort zone, because they all tend to share the same world-views in some form or another.

We've seen before bad behavior by players (and some coaches) towards women, the brutal locker room mindset - often literally - that leads to various forms of sexual harassment and worse physical assault (including murder!). The Bucs currently have two guys (Brown and Sherman) on roster handling off-field assault accusations. We just let go of Jameis last year, remember all the allegations he brought to the team before he was even drafted. How many times was Warren Sapp (during and after his time as a player) coping with abuse allegations and charges? How many other Bucs players over the years?

And on other teams, anyone seen DeShaun Watson lately? And it's not even the coaches or players: How many sex scandals between owners Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft alone...?

The Gruden / Allen emails may have been from 2011, but how recently was Gruden still thinking that way, talking that way behind closed doors? How vulgar was he when he was head coach for the Bucs? How trustworthy was he, really, when he ran everything in Tampa Bay?

It's not that Gruden is (not even was) the worst of the worst, he's just the one whose emails got out there for public scrutiny. He merely got caught. There's hundreds if not thousands of more emails and evidence still unrevealed in the investigation into the Washington Football Team. Even with the NFL currently refusing to release the rest of it, there are civil cases - and maybe a criminal case - that will force that release.

There is a lot of rot in sports when it comes to sexism and racism. No amount of marketing "diversity" is going to cover that up for the NFL - or for ESPN, who were Gruden's employers when these emails got shared - until there is genuine transparency and greater accountability and greater respect for women in office roles, reporting roles, and everywhere else.

I will admit it: Years back I made a habit of sharing cheerleader pics in Gameday threads (Cheerleader Rally pics!). I didn't think twice about ogling the ladies when they were on the sidelines cheering the Bucs on. But with more and more revelations over the years about abusive behavior towards those women (the peepholes to their locker rooms, the low to nonexistent pay they get), I realized I was part of the problem and I stopped doing all that. I went too far in that regards, and I apologize. But what I am seeing now, with reports that WFT cheerleaders were forced to strip for overseas trips, forced into girlfriend roles for rich businessmen... I am utterly horrified about what's been going on.

If we need to end the practice of cheerleaders for professional teams, we should. And every team with cheerleaders should repay them every last dollar those women earned suffering all that shit, pay them like Quarterbacks for God's sake.

7) In professional college football news: I am on record declaring the entire ranking system based on arbitrary and biased polling to be a sham. Half the teams in the Top 25 don't deserve to be ranked, they're only there because the reporters and coaches to vote in the polls have their favorites (or are playing 4-D chess over their own standings to give themselves an edge).

Right now, I can't even tell you who the Top Five teams are supposed to be, other than the fact Alabama lost a stunner to Texas A&M last weekend. I think Cincy is up there, maybe Iowa except wait they lost THIS weekend, maybe Georgia is ranked top overall, but then again WHO CARES. It's all based on projection, and bias towards major conferences like the SEC and Big10.

7a) The University of Florida's problem is that they don't know who their starting QB should be.

7b) DAMMIT, SOUTH FLORIDA. This game against Tulsa was one of the "winnable" ones. And YOU WERE WINNING, YOU HAD A LEAD. Dammit, YOU HAD A KICKOFF RETURN FOR A TD! You had a PICK-SIX! Why couldn't you hold onto that damn lead...?

How will the school ever justify building a home stadium on-campus if there's no winning team to play there?

8) In professional baseball news...

(Witty somberly packs up every CHAMPA BAY t-shirt and RAYS WIN THE AL EAST merch in sight)

(places everything into a dirt pit) (tosses lighter fluid at key spots)

(lights match) (tosses it into the pit)

Let it all burn. BURN, MOTHERF---.... (cries)

What happened? My guess is that the analytical way that Cash managed in the regular season - mixing and matching without one dominant player to lead - was great for getting to 100 wins and a division title, but the postseason is a different beast relying on consistent hitting and dominant starting pitching we never had.

8a) Do you realize we're now forced to root either for a team that cheated (Astros), the manager who cheated with that team (now managing the Red Sox), a team with a racist logo and game chant (Braves), or a team with all the money but none of the charisma (Dodgers). Dammit, Rays... Dammit Giants... You could have saved baseball this autumn...


10) Next up: Chicago Bears visit. Bucs at home against a rookie QB in Justin Fields. Yes, it's a rookie QB but remember the LAST rookie QB for the Bears who visited us...? We made Trubisky look like an All-Pro that game.

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