So, that was fun, right? In a game where plenty of people had jokes about Tom Brady’s fourth down gaff from 2020, the Buccaneers were the ones laughing when all was said and done. Justin Fields looked completely overmatched, Matt Nagy continued to show exactly why he isn’t cut out for the head coach life, and the Bucs gave their most complete effort of the season. Jumping out to a quick 21-0 first quarter lead, the Bucs were in cruise control for the remaining 45 minutes, coming close to handing the Chicago Bears their worst loss in team history.
For the sixth time in seven weeks, let’s Pick Six on a victory Monday.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Goat keeps Goat-ing. Tom Brady wasn’t the most accurate he’s ever been. In fact, he tied a career high for consecutive incomplete passes at one point in this game. None of that, however, matters at all. Brady threw his 600th career regular season touchdown on Sunday - a mark that has never been reached by a quarterback in the history of the league. For some reference, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway threw just 300 in his career and he’s looked at as one of the greatest to ever do it. Brady promptly added touchdowns 601 and 602 - all of which went to Mike Evans - as he continues to capture every significant record known to man.
2.) How bout that defense? In a game where the Buccaneers were without Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Richard Sherman, they were asking players like Jamel Dean, Dee Delaney, Ross Cockrell, and Pierre Desir to step up and play at the level of starting-caliber corners. Not only did the players succeed, they absolutely flourished. The Buccaneers’ secondary accounted for three of the five takeaways the defense had while Antoine Winfield Jr. added in by getting one of the four sacks of the day on quarterback Justin Fields. Sherman acted as interim cornerbacks coach while he was sidelined and every single player that stepped foot on the field answered the bell. An incredible effort from those guys in the back end of the defense not allowing a single receiver to go for over 40 yards receiving on the day.
3.) Running for the hills. The Buccaneers rushing attack was next level, combining for 182 yards on the day. Leonard Fournette - who had established himself as the clear lead back over the course of the last few weeks - finished with 81 yards and a touchdown on fifteen carries. Ronald Jones finally looked like his 2020 self, gaining 63 yards on ten carries while nearly getting into the end zone. Ke’Shawn Vaughn added 27 yards of his own on five carries. All together, it didn’t matter which back was lining up, the Bears didn’t have an answer for a single one of them. RoJo led the way with 6.3 yards per carry and seemed to find himself a bigger part of the offensive attack than he has in just about any game this season. More games like this and the Bucs will be working their way towards the most balanced offense in the league.
4.) Mike Evans is a machine. With the absence of Antonio Brown, it was Chris Godwin that ended up leading the team in targets (11), receptions (8), and yards (111) but it was Evans that found the end zone three times, tying a career high for most touchdown receptions in a game. Evans had six catches on ten targets for 76 yards to go along with the three scores. His seven touchdowns on the year has him tied for second in the NFL, trailing only Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, who has nine. He doesn’t always get the most looks or most yards, but when it comes time to put points on the board it’s Mike Evans that gets priority from Brady. Since Brady’s arrival, Evans has 20 touchdown receptions. His most over a two season span is 21 (2019 - 8, 2020 - 13) and he still has ten games to go this year. Evans’ thirteen touchdowns last year were a career high and he’s on pace for 17 this season.
5.) More injuries... So, the Bucs saw cornerbacks Dee Delaney and Jamel Dean leave this game with injuries. Dean was able to return, but Delaney did not. According to Bruce Arians, Dean is fine while according to Delaney, Delaney is fine. This is the first time this season that the Bucs haven’t lost a starter to injury during a game which is certainly a step in the right direction. Now it’s about getting players back. Rob Gronkowski was running at practice but may not be ready to return next week against the New Orleans Saints. Arians said last week that Lavonte David was probably the “closest” of the injured guys to coming back. Meanwhile, Jason Pierre-Paul will likely be missing more practice again this week as he is dealing with a finger broken in two places as well as a torn rotator cuff - but that didn’t stop him from getting two sacks against the Bears.
6.) Penalties. Did they fix it?!?! On Friday’s Locked On Bucs Podcast, I made the bold prediction that since it was after the Chicago game last season that the players finally said “enough is enough” and fixed the penalty issues that this year it would be at the Chicago game that we saw the change in the team. That did, indeed, happen. The Buccaneers - second in the league and penalties and first in the league in penalty yards heading into week seven - had just one penalty for ten yards. It was one of the cleanest games they’ve played all year - and while the defense got hit for nearly 100 yards in pass interference penalties alone last week against the Eagles, a make-shift secondary going against a top tier deep threat in Darnell Mooney and one of the most talented receivers in the league in Allen Robinson didn’t commit a single penalty.
Six Numbers To Consider
43 - Yards on Jaelon Darden’s first punt return of the game, the longest return in the NFL this season
6 - Chris Godwin’s franchise ranking all-time in touchdown receptions (tied with Mark Carrier)
35 - First half points by the Buccaneers, most in any first half in team history
1 - Player in Bucs history with 3+ touchdowns in a single half - Mike Evans (and he’s done it twice)
21 - Multi-sack games for Jason Pierre-Paul in his career
15 - Multi-touchdown games by Mike Evans, second most in the NFL since 2014 (Antonio Brown, 17)
Six Best Tweets
Matt Nagy coaching a football team pic.twitter.com/jtmMEmIIfV— Jordan Moore (@iJordanMoore) October 24, 2021
Hey Tom - how many first half touchdowns did you have? pic.twitter.com/nhIW1jRUAL— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) October 24, 2021
Tom Brady's hat is backwards on the sideline right now. @ColinCowherd must be fuming— Bailey Adams (@BaileyJAdams22) October 24, 2021
Six Ways To Prepare For Saints Week
6.) Pull out your Sean Payton voodoo doll and begin poking away
5.) Ignore all forms of jambalaya, gumbo, and beignets
4.) Start storing tweets from Saints fans who are inevitably going to be overly confident in New Orleans heading into the game. Gotta keep those receipts
3.) Re-watch the NFC Divisional round game that sent Drew Brees packing to NBC
2.) Trade or drop all Saints players from your fantasy roster. And don’t even give me that “I got Alvin Kamara” excuse - you can get a haul for him and you know it. Remove the temptation to find solace or joy in anything they may do.
1.) Kick back and relax, knowing that even short handed the Buccaneers have asserted themselves as the best team in the NFC South and have the confidence that they will get the job done on Sunday. The torch wasn’t passed so much as just taken. By force.
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Getting better by the week while still missing a ton of starters. Those players will be coming back - and this team will get even better.
2.) Arizona Cardinals - Still undefeated, still looking good
3.) Buffalo Bills - On a bye this week, but unquestionably the best team in the AFC
4.) Green Bay Packers - They are all the way back. All the way.
5.) Tennessee Titans - Back to back statement wins, looking more like the team we expected to see this season and not the team that lost to the Jets
6.) Los Angeles Rams - I almost put the Cowboys here, but I think head to head the Rams would win. Detroit proved to be a more difficult game than many believed it would be.