Time for our weekly roundup of the best and worst from the week that was, which is always a bit better after a win. Even an ugly one.
Third Worst: Leaving It On The Leg
Kickers are people too, I get it. But no team wants to leave the fate of a game on the leg of a kicker. Not the Bucs, not the Pats, not the Baltimore Ravens.
Every coach and player would much rather the game be decided by a ‘one last shot’ sort of play on fourth down. From a winning side, it means you’ve put your opponent in a very difficult situation.
For the team looking for last-second heroics, it’s leaving the ball in the hands of your most important player.
Ok, maybe the Ravens are good with last-second kicks.
Third Best: A Heroes Welcome
It’s not the first time we’ve seen an opposing stadium or arena welcome back a hero of their franchise or the game. It certainly won’t be the last, either.
But the New England Patriots did it right. They didn’t hide from it, they embraced it.
The return of Tom Brady to Foxboro, Massachusetts in his second season after leaving the franchise he led to six Super Bowl wins, was THE storyline of Week 4.
All the way down to the fans cheering Brady as he stepped out of the tunnel, and then booing him as he stepped onto the field for the first time as a competitor. The Patriots, and their fans, nailed it.
Second Worst: Papa’s Got (The Same Old) Bag
The Patriots defense also had a pretty good game. Anytime a defense holds their opponent to fewer than 20 points, that unit should come off the field with a win.
Unfortunately for the Pats’ defense, the Bucs’ group held Mac Jones’ offense under 20 points, just a little more.
How’d they do it? By making sure Tom Brady couldn’t beat them. Flooding the pass coverage while getting as much pressure as they could without sacrificing back-end security.
Tampa Bay’s offense has proven their running game is their weakness. New England wanted to make sure the running backs would have to be involved to win. And it worked.
Expect more of the same from other teams, moving forward.
Second Best: Trench Domination
Vita Vea and Tristan Wirfs may have been the most important parts of this game, and neither recorded a single statistical point of data.
In 78 snaps on offense, the Buccaneers’ right tackle didn’t give up a single pressure, hit, or sack.
On the other side of the ball, Vea was involved and even the catalyst for some of the most important plays of the game for the Tampa Bay defense.
When he wasn’t on the field, the Patriots moved the ball much better. Coincidence?
I broke down each man’s impressive contributions on today’s episode of the Locked On Bucs Podcast.
THE Worst: Secondary Running on Fumes
Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead missed Week 1. The same week the team lost cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting.
Then, it was Jamel Dean who went down in Los Angeles. Now, it’s Carlton Davis III and Antoine Winfield Jr. who left Sunday night with injuries of their own.
Thank goodness for Richard Sherman, Pierre Desir, and Ross Cockrell (the highest-graded cornerback for Tampa Bay in Week 4, according to PFF).
Head coach Bruce Arians said they’d have to wait until Wednesday to start determining if Dean can return for Week 5 against the Miami Dolphins. We’re also still awaiting official word on Carlton Davis at the time of this writing.
Winfield is likely a no-go for this weekend due to being placed in concussion protocol.
The secondary needs a bye week in the biggest way, and its four games away.
THE Best: The Rise of Lenny
The New England Patriots set out to make the Bucs win by running the ball more than everyone knows they’d like to.
Enter ‘Regular Season’ Lenny.
He keeps this up and we’ll drop the repetitive nicknames altogether and just call him, ‘Lenny’, or ‘Fournette’, or something.
Wouldn’t that be wild?
Fournette carried the ball 20 times on Sunday for 91-yards rushing with a longest carry of 21-yards. He also brought in three of his five targets for 47-yards. That’s 23 touches for 136-yards for those who don’t want to do the math yourselves.
The running back who was a healthy scratch less than one year ago today has certainly come a long way, and is growing within this offense, every week.
After four games Fournette leads the Buccaneers in scrimmage yards, has more touches than all other running backs combined, and is averaging over five yards per touch.
Sounds like an RB1 to me.