A 28-22 win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Philadelphia Eagles may look closer than many expected to see ahead of time, but it wasn’t quite as close as the score might suggest.
Still, as good a win as it was, it wasn’t a perfect outing for the Bucs, and we’re back again to go over the good parts and the bad, from another win in the 2021 NFL Season.
THIRD WORST: PENALTIES APLENTY
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the game, the time of possession, and just about every category you could think of, including penalties.
With seven flags held against the Bucs, they gave the Eagles 120 yards of real estate on Thursday night. Compared, Philadelphia gave up just 41 yards on four penalties accepted.
It didn’t bite them in this game, but such a large margin in penalties could certainly become a problem if it becomes a trend.
THIRD BEST: LEGEND OF LENNY CONTINUES
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have my doubts when Leonard Fournette became a member of the Bucs roster.
Even when ‘Playoff’ and ‘Lombardi Lenny’ arrived, I wondered in the offseason if the same Fournette would arrive when the regular season came back around.
Well, add this writer among the population of people thoroughly enjoying the rise of various ‘Lenny’ personalities.
The legend only grew on Thursday Night Football as the running back collected more than 120 yards of offense and two touchdowns.
SECOND WORST: GROUND ASSAULT
If the Eagles did anything well, it was run the ball. Which is shocking.
Running back Miles Sanders ran for 56-yards on just nine carries, and quarterback Jalen Hurts collected another 44-yards on ten rushes himself.
Hurts also had two touchdown carries to go with one touchdown pass.
Now, a lot of this came in garbage time, but we’ve seen the Bucs - and many other defenses - struggle containing mobile quarterbacks and getting victimized by versatile backs, before.
When the Dallas Cowboys gained ground against the Bucs using the quick passing game in Week 1, we saw a long string of NFL offenses try to do the same thing.
Now, expect teams with more mobile quarterbacks to look to use a similar approach in getting their quarterback and running back more involved.
One game isn’t cause for worry, but it’s something worth noting, in a copycat league.
SECOND BEST: O.J. RETURNS
Tight end O.J. Howard has been playing this season, but his involvement has been minimal. Asked about it, head coach Bruce Arians often comments on the fact his tight end is still healing from his season-ending injury suffered last year.
Still, Howard’s lack of production despite being on the field still stirred concerns the young tight end just wasn’t on quarterback Tom Brady’s sheet of targets worth looking for.
On Thursday, a lot of those concerns were put to bed as the two connected six times for 49-yards and a touchdown.
A lot of people want to see Howard do well with the Bucs, and another week without Rob Gronkowski active could open the door for another resurgent performance.
THE WORST: CORNERBACK DOWN
Richard Sherman was brought in because of a need for the Bucs to add to their secondary depth, specifically in the cornerback group.
With Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting out with injuries, Sherman and Jamel Dean represented the team’s top two corners entering Week 6.
Then, Dean was left alone as Sherman left the field with an injury of his own.
It makes six weeks straight the Buccaneers have lost at least one starter to injury, making it even more amazing the team is 5-1 at this point.
THE BEST: DEPTH AND COACHING
Speaking of amazing. The job backup players like Ross Cockrell, Dee Delaney, Pierre Desir, Mike Edwards, and even Cam Brate and O.J. Howard has done in place of key starters is award-worthy by itself.
If there was a Coordinator of the Year Award in the NFL, then Todd Bowles would be running away with it.
When you consider how many players Bowles has had to rotate into his defense against his will, the ability of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff has never been more evident than it is today.
The effort and abilities of those backups haven’t necessarily threatened any missing starters from a job standpoint, but it’s hard not to applaud the fact there are guys who were roster bubble names playing meaningful snaps, and they’re beating healthy offenses on a weekly basis.