1) This, it should be noted, is a game that normally wouldn't have happened. When the NFL expanded to 17 games, they decided on making it an additional NFC vs AFC mixup based on division and placement, which meant the Bucs (2nd place NFC South) were keyed to play the Colts (2nd place AFC South). So you can thank NFL greed for this heart attack of a game today.
1a) Coming in, the Indianapolis Colts may have looked weak at 5-5, but they had the disadvantage of entering the season a bit short due to preseason injuries and playing against strong teams. They rebounded to get back into the Wild Card hunt and had humiliated a couple of teams - hi, Buffalo! - doing so. Coming out of the Bye week, I identified the Colts as the toughest challenge the Buccaneers would face in November.
1b) The story coming in was Jonathan Taylor as the best healthy RB in the NFL at this moment, scoring TDs at will and averaging well over 100 yards per game over the last five games: Going up against the top-rated rushing defense in the Bucs giving up under 85 yards per game and leading (I think, double-check for me) in the Tackles-For-Loss category. Either Taylor was going to have an MVP game or the Bucs front D-line was going to contain him.
1c) It turns out the REAL story coming into this game was the ongoing woes for the Bucs when it came to playing well across the board. Even in our wins, Tampa Bay has been sloppy, messy, turnover-prone, penalty-prone, unable to run the offense well in the First Quarter half the time, etc. Because that's how this game opened: Tom Brady having trouble finding receivers, those receivers failing to catch those throws, and letting the Colts get the early lead.
1d) Into this was terrible field position due to one of the WORST punts in Bucs history - not THE Worst, that was Tom Tupa in Super Bowl 38 - and another early INT by Brady deep in Bucs territory to give the Colts MORE points in their Red Zone. Just before halftime with the Colts up 24-14, I gave up. I just couldn't watch the sloppy play anymore. I turned off the TV and went grocery shopping.
1e) By 4:30 PM I figured the game was over and turned the radio on to listen to the post-game autopsy... only to hear the talk was about the last-minute gusty win by the Bucs 38-31 through big damn heroics by key players when we needed it most.
1f) It's official. I'm a jinx. If I tune in, the Bucs play terribly. If I go shopping for milk, the Bucs turn into GODS. That's it. I can't watch games in real-time anymore. If you see my sorry ass on the Game-Day Threads, KICK ME OFF AND DON'T LET ME BACK IN UNTIL THE GAME'S OVER AND WE WON.
2) Player of the Game: When you run for 100 yards at least, and score 4 touchdowns overall - tying team records with JIMMY GILES and the the Dougernaut - your best player is Leonard "Playoff Lenny" Fournette. We need more consistency in our running game for situations where the passing game falters like it did today, and BY GOD Fournette delivered.
2a) The Bucs were losing until Shaquil Barrett pulled off the Third Quarter sack, fumble, and recovery that gave the Bucs great field position and the chance to make the score 21-24. It's regarded by the post-game commentators as the turning point for the Bucs to win. He ended up with 2 sacks and 8 tackles for the day.
2b) Safety Antonie Winfield blew a pass play in the First Half that allowed the Colts to go up 10-7, but he recovered to pull off a key interception on another deep pass play, preventing the Colts from responding to the Bucs' score and letting the Bucs offense get more points to go up 28-24.
2c) While the Bucs passing offense didn't excel today, at least Rob Gronkowski racked up 123 receiving yards and closing in on the tight end's league record for most 100 yard games.
2d) Overall the Bucs defense kept Colts RB Taylor down to 83 rushing yards and 1 TD. Granted, it was a good day for him, but the Colts needed a GREAT day from him so the Bucs D win this one.
2e) Vita Vea only had one tackle on the day but he got a front tooth chipped off during the game and Vea laughed it off as the blood stained his mouth. He is now a full-fledged pirate, ye seadogs of doom. Also, later tonight the Tooth Fairy will get tackled for a four-yard loss.
3) I didn't list a lot of players of the week here because while the Bucs won, they didn't really dominate much and had to pull off a last-minute surprise TD run from Fournette to clinch the game. All of the problems troubling the Bucs all season long - the inability to dominate the way our talent suggests it should - nearly led to this game being a huge loss. While the Bucs are now 8-3 and working their best record since 2008, it's a shaky winning record hiding a lot of sins.
3a) Given the wins-losses of the remaining teams on schedule, on paper the Bucs are well-placed to get to 12 wins. There's also the current advantage of being 2 games at least ahead of the rest of the NFC South for the division win (something we haven't had since 2007!) but while this all looks good, we've seen the Bucs in this position before - 5 and 2 in 1995! 9 and 3 in 2008! - we've seen those shaky teams fall apart into disappointment and despair.
This isn't over yet. None of us should feel safe until the Bucs get past the Saints and the Panthers to ensure the NFC South is ours.
4) Statistics of the game: Turnovers. This was the best thing in the Bucs' favor, snagging 5 of them - 3 INTs and 2 fumbles - while the Colts garnered 2. Granted, the last INT was against a last second Hail Mary, but it DID prevent the Colts from a miracle tie to force overtime. Almost as important, the Bucs garnered 21 points off those turnovers while the Colts only garnered 7 points.
4a) Third Down Conversions: The Bucs struggled here, getting 2-of-8 while the Colts fared better at 5-of-11. Worse, Colts made both their Fourth Down conversions as well.
4b) PENALTIES WILL BE THE DEATH OF US. Actually, it killed the Colts today, going 6 for 66 yards and 4 of those penalties giving the Bucs first downs.
4c) Red Zone performance for the Bucs went well getting 4 TDs out of 5 visits. But the Colts went 3-for-3 in the Red Zone, which should upset the Bucs defensive coaches for giving up those TDs like that.
5) In professional NFL news: The Thanksgiving games weren't all fun and games for the home teams, who all lost this Thursday. For the Detroit Lions, that's to be expected: For the Cowboys and Saints though, that has to suck.
5a) Miami pummeled Carolina today, and I think it has something to do with Cam Newton coughing up two INTs and 97 total passing yards (!) to where the Panthers are probably regretting bringing their old OLD hero back...
5b) DAMMIT TENNESSEE YOU HAD ONE JOB! The Titans were top of the league three weeks ago, but without their star RB Derrick Henry out there, teams have figured out how to shut down QB Tannehill and the Titans are struggling now.
5c) By beating those Titans, the resurgent New England Patriots now look like the team to beat in the AFC. This should terrify everybody.
6) In profession college football news: Did anyone else watch the Florida - Florida State mess this Saturday? I swear to Dog, half of every play was UNDER REVIEW by the refs. Unsportsmanlike penalties across the board. The Gators were offsides so often two of their players entered the Transfer protocols to play for the Noles next season. Both teams were lucky they were able to score any points. And then there was Dameon Peirce powering in for a touchdown with his helmet stripped off, which was a BADASS touchdown run but unfortunately illegal because the sport wants to crack down on concussions - I concur, but CMON it wasn't his fault he lost his helmet! - but it was a good thing there were offsetting penalties that gave the Gators more opportunities to let Pierce get that TD for real four plays later to clinch the win over FSU.
With that whole game resting on a last-minute onsides kick attempt by FSU... where the kicker whiffed so badly the ball barely fell over, forcing a penalty on the Noles and giving UF the win.
That game was the FLORIDA MAN of football games: Batsh-t crazy and unbelievable from start to finish.
And to think the winning Florida coach was the interim HC who was originally the Special Teams coach, and is now 2-0 as an interim coach. I know UF just hired Napier to be the next head coach, but some other college out there ought to give Knox a chance, he kind of knows how to win games...
6a) Speaking of new coaches, South Florida switched to a new defensive coordinator who seemed to fix the defensive woes of the last 4-6 games for the Bulls, making it a close rivalry matchup against UCF this Saturday. It's just the Bulls offense couldn't get the passing game going, and faltered down the stretch to lose the War On I-4. Where USF goes after this, God only knows...
6b) Speaking of Rivalry games, this tends to be the weekend for them and BY GOD there were doozies across the nation, above all Michigan FINALLY getting over the hurdle of Ohio State, and doing so decisively with a 42-27 smackdown.
6c) For three quarters, Auburn was beating Alabama 10-0. Seriously. All of the BCS was watching in horror the likelihood of Bama missing the cut (they still could if Georgia beats them in the SEC title game next week), but then the damn Football Gods changed their minds and an Auburn player screwed up a play that gave Bama the chance to win in OT.
By all rights, 'Bama did not deserve to win that game.
6d) DAMMIT UT-SAN ANTONIO YOU HAD ONE JOB, STAY UNDEFEATED AND UNDERSCORE THE HYPOCRISY OF THE BCS SYSTEM... /cries
6e) DAMMIT CI... no wait, Cincinnati won, they're undefeated now, playing Houston for the American title I think next week, still a crazy game to play but here's hoping Cincy wins because THE BCS IS BROKEN WHEN IT COMES TO LETTING UNBEATEN TEAMS PLAY WHEN THOSE TEAMS AREN'T SEC/ACC/Big 10/PAC-Whatever.
6f) I will never understand why head coaches will quit a school just as they're getting into a major bowl game or playoff system the way they do just like OU's head coach Riley just quit on them to go to Southern Cal. There ought to be a rule forcing coaches to STAY FAITHFUL to the program they've led to a bowl game to at least coach that team for a title of some kind. This is just cruel to the school.
7) In professional hockey news: DAMMIT LIGHTNING YOU NEED TO WIN ALL THE GAMES TO KEEP THE CUP! /cries
7a) Toronto Maple Leafs are winning now? Pfft. Wait until April.
8) In professional basketball news: Look, LeBron, when you elbow a guy in the face bad enough that he's bleeding more than a camp counselor in a Friday the 13th movie, you need to calm down and accept the suspension you earned.
9) In professional Beatles watching: The Get Back documentary on Disney Plus is an incredible look back at how beautiful and talented the Fab Four were. Pounding out songs right before our eyes, all while under the stress of a constricted schedule that flared up conflict that explained how the greatest rock band ever split up at the height of their power. A generation of music fans watching how the break-up wasn't Yoko's fault (she's just sitting there most of the time). Witnessing George's frustration at not getting more of his own music accepted by Paul or John. Ringo being the sanest guy in the room. John just tuned out and yet tuned in whenever the music starts up. Paul trying to think up 100 things to keep the band going and getting the project done. And Mal Evans doing whatever roadies do in the studio (and what is up with his hair???). Topped off by Billy Preston waltzing in with a big grin, plunking down on electric piano to juice up the Beatles and dialing the whole thing up to 11. Gods.
And I haven't even gotten to the rooftop concert yet.
10) Next up: Bucs travel to face Atlanta again. Tampa hasn't been perfect on the road, but on the bright side the Falcons haven't been perfect at all this whole season...