1) Well, in the good news category the Buccaneers avoided a three-game losing streak.
1a) Tampa Bay came into this game on a painful snide, losing to a better-than-expected New Orleans Saints team and then getting kicked down by a Washington No-Names we should have beat but didn't. The Bucs were coping with a mix of injuries to key players on both offense and defense, shoddy play leading to penalties and turnovers, and the horrifying reality that Ridley Scott is terrible at making films now.
With a struggling, collapsing team like the New York Giants coming to town and with the Bucs enjoying home field advantage along with the returns of Gronkowski and several cornerbacks, this Monday nighter was a setup for a return to dominant play, which for the most part the Bucs achieved strolling to a 30-10 romp.
1b) I said "Most part."
The Bucs owned the night statistically, with more offensive yardage, turnovers, conversion rates, and above all POINTS. However, the sloppy play that hurt them the last two games was still there. Penalties early on hurt the Bucs. A terribly called quick screen turned into an easy turnover that the Giants exploited. For every brilliant pass Brady threw tonight he also threw a less-enthralling checkdown pass that would get dropped for no gain. For all the good rushing yards the Bucs would get they didn't stay consistent with it, and still rotated between Fournette and Jones denying both of them a chance for a 100-yard night.
Some of that sounds like nitpicking, and it likely is. But each of those problems are key issues that the Bucs have suffered all season long. For all the power and talent we've got on offense, the Bucs are still playing like they've put one arm behind their backs instead of playing at full power. It's like they're cruising instead of dominating, and it feels wrong.
2) Even in a big win, we really didn't have one particular player stand out for the weekly honors. It feels like it goes to Tom Brady by default as the QB, since he had an efficient night throwing for 307 yards and two TDs. Thing is, you could TELL he fell short in the TD count: This team SHOULD have gotten at least one more passing TD last night, if only the playcalls in the Red Zone that second half were smarter and better timed.
2a) Mike Evans has a good reason to be Player of the Week, getting his 72nd touchdown of his career (all in Tampa Bay) putting him at the top of the team's record books - surpassing the scoring machine Mike Alstott - and basically making him the best offensive player the Bucs ever drafted. He's still on pace for another 1000 yard receiving year. And he's still under 30 years old. He could arguably stay with the Bucs until he retires and he's positioned to hold every WR record for the team and even a few league records when he's done. As sure a first-ballot Hall of Famer the Bucs have had since Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.
2b) Rob Gronkowski came back healthy last night and he proved his absence was one of the reasons Brady was off the last two games. He racked up 71 yards receiving and should have been the target for Brady's throws near the end zone during the Fourth Quarter dammit.
2c) Chris Godwin caught every pass thrown his way last night (six of them) and one of them was a TD scamper to open the game. He's having arguably a better year than Evans and deserves Pro Bowl consideration, NFL fans.
2d) Devin White didn't have many stats that would impress as a linebacker - decent tackle numbers behind Lavonte David - but he was all over the field disrupting the Giants all night. He forced QB Daniel Jones into a desperate throw that turned into an INT, and later deflected a midfield throw that turned into the other INT the team snagged. It'd be nice if the Football Gods would shower White with more tangible numbers like sacks or INTs for himself.
2e) Anthony Nelson and Cam Gill gave the Bucs the sack numbers to make the stat numbers look good for the defense tonight, it would have been nice if the starters had gotten them but hey get 'em where you can. I didn't even know we still had Nelson, I thought he got cut the last week of preseason.
2f) Steve McClendon, a veteran (really, 35 years old?) signed to fill the injured gap for Vita Vea, got his first Interception as a defensive tackle in his career. HOLD ONTO THAT BALL, STEVE.
3) Statistics of the game: Third Down Efficiency. Bucs made 6-of-13 conversions which meant they sustained long good drives that led more often than not to points. Giants sucked at 1-for-9. They also sucked at fourth down conversions getting 1-for-3 (Bucs by the way converted their sole fourth down convert to close out the game).
3a) PENALTIES WILL BE THE DEATH OF US. And during the first half, those penalties (6 total) hurt the Bucs. Granted, the refs were still blind, but three of those penalties granted the Giants fresh first downs, which helped them stay in the game early. New York were hit with bad penalties (4 total) during the second half, which squashed their drives and allowed the Bucs to steamroll ahead.
3c) Red Zone offense: Bucs made it 3-of-5 visits inside the 20. That's a nice 21 points there, but it shows the frustration the Bucs' fans had late in the Fourth Quarter when the Bucs were close enough to get a 4th or even 5th TD to make the game a complete blowout, and yet the drives stalled and ended with field goals instead (Yay Succop fantasy owners). The Giants only visited the Red Zone twice, and one of them was due to a sloppy turnover by the Bucs that gave the Giants goal-line position to score easy.
3d) Total yards: Bucs racked up 402 total yards to Giants 215, almost double the distance. You could see where New York struggled offensively all game... and still the Bucs could have had even MORE yards (mutter grumble).
3e) Rushing: Bucs ended up with 94 yards for the team, but none of our rushers - Fournette at 35 yards total and Jones at 33 - truly dominated. Our rushing attack needs more touches and more off-tackle runs that during the game garnered more 8-10 yard gains than the measly 3-4 yards rushing up the middle gave us.
4) With this win, the Bucs remain on pace for a 12-5 season and a likely clinching of the NFC South. But the offense still looks like it's running on third gear instead of fourth gear, and the defense still has problems racking up the sack numbers and assured play we need out of them.
5) In other professional football news: Who the hell told the New England Patriots to win enough games to claim the top seat of the AFC East, AGAIN?! DAMMIT. The Hooded One made another deal with Satan, didn't he...
5a) Poor Detroit, going back onto the losing snide and looking like they won't win a single game this year. Seriously, this team has slid below Cleveland in terms of having the worst karma in football, barely ever seeing the sunlight of championships and victories. When was the last time the Lions had a double-digit winning season? When was the last time - if ever in the Super Bowl era - they ever reached the NFC championship game?
5d) DAMMIT TENNESSEE TITANS YOU HAD ONE JOB, KEEP THE PATRIOTS OUT OF HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE FOR THE POSTSEASON.
5e) Just how scary are the Colts right now? They opened with some painful losses to good teams, but they're in a three-game win streak and they just STOMPED on the previously dominant Bills. Jonathan Taylor scoring 5 rushing TDs for a team record and for a ton of yards just put him in serious conversation for league MVP (now with Derrick Henry out with injury).
5f) Speaking of, what the hell happened to you Buffalo. Your ass was so beautiful at the start of this season.
6) In professional baseball news: It was nice that Kevin Cash won AL Manager of the Year for last season, but you'd think it would go to a guy who actually won a playoff series instead of choking the way the Rays did this October. /cries
6a) There's a looming lockout coming, and I still think the federal government needs to step in with the Antitrust division of the DOJ to force both sides to the table to hammer out a stronger revenue sharing plan, a salary floor and a salary cap, and pummeling the owners into pooling THEIR money into a stadium renovation fund that Tampa Bay could use to finance a new ballpark in Ybor. GET ER DONE, BIDEN.
7) In professional college football news: Why aren't we talking about UT-San Antonio as an unbeaten team for the playoff games? Oh right, because they're a minor school that won't bring in THE MONEY the way a two-loss Big 10 school or an overrated Alabama team will.
7a) Speaking of, CMON CINCINNATI BURST THAT BCS BUBBLE.
7b) Florida fired Dan Mullen for this terrible year of football. Outsiders may complain that the program is dumping him after three good winning years, but understand there had been signs before that Mullen was in trouble, this was his first full year with talent he recruited, and the team had been woefully undercoached. The debate over starting QBs - with the likely alienation of freshman hot shot Richardson who may transfer because of how Mullen handled him - created a situation the boosters didn't like.
Thing is, who the hell can the Gators find to fill this hot seat?
7c) Speaking of hot seats, the coaches for USF are doomed - the bad defensive coordinator Spencer has already been shown the door - because losing to a terrible team like Tulane and losing badly underlines just how far a once-praised football program has collapsed into rubble. There's nothing here in South Florida that inspires any fandom anymore. The Daily Stampede channel on SB Nation has fallen silent, half the scheduled writers have quit in disgust. Nobody shows up for games anymore. School spirit tied to athletics is dying. What the hell can the USF Bulls do?
8) In professional hockey news: Dammit Lightning can you do something about squandering your third period leads?
9) In professional Disney Plus streaming news: This Hawkeye series looks to be funny as hell. I'm gonna binge it.
9a) In profession book-shilling news: I attended a comic con in Lake County this Sunday and sold two of the anthologies I've been published in! WOOHOO! Also my NaNoWriMo count is above 44,000 words right now.
10) Next up: The Bucs travel to Indy to play the red-hot Colts. This is one of those games the Bucs CANNOT take for granted. This is a good team playing real good right now. This is gonna be a nail-biter.
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