1) Oh hey, all the numbers of the 12/12/21 date are just 1s and 2s. Weird.
1a) Also, this is actress Jennifer Connelly's birthday today!
1b) That's about all the good things I can say before I break into swear words over this near-disaster of a win for the Buccaneers this afternoon. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?
1c) As per last week, I attempted to avoid watching this game in any way to avoid jinxing the team, even though I caved a bit and followed the responses on Twitter, which allowed me to witness indirectly a dominating 24-3 halftime lead for the Bucs over the Buffalo Bills. Thing was, I decided to go make dinner for the Second Half of the game and only tuned in for NBC'S Sunday night pregame highlights to see the Bucs had squandered it all to a 27-27 tie game heading into OVERTIME.
1d) At which point I turned the TV off and went to work on finishing my Saturnalia card mailing list, tuning back in about an hour later to see the Bucs had eked out a 33-27 win with a big TD pass from Tom Brady to Breshad Perriman who finally earned his late season signing paycheck.
1e) So a Big WHEW exhaled out of Tampa tonight. Bucs retain an unbeaten home record this season (so far). Bucs reach the exalted 10-win count - a rarity for this team - harking the first back-to-back double-digit win seasons since 2001-02. Bucs failed to clinch the division or a postseason berth of any kind, but can arguably do that next week vs. the Saints at home.
1f) Still. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED? I could look at the statistics and read the play-by-play reports to see the damage done, but it looks so far like it was Buffalo making the halftime adjustments that Tampa failed to make. If anything, it looked as though the Bucs took their foot off the gas pedal. This has been a problem with previous Bucs teams, not just the bad years but also the good years under Dungy or Gruden: The LACK of a killer instinct to keep adding on the points to ensure wins.
2) Player of the Game: Leonard Fournette looked to be one of the few bright spots in today's matchup: 19 carries for 113 yards and one early TD on a huge 47-yard scamper. I don't have the season numbers in front of me but I hope Playoff Lenny is close to getting over 1,000 yards rushing, that would be a huge deal.
2a) Chris Godwin is still a workhorse, leading the WR corps with 10 catches for 105 yards. Alas, no TDs, if he had one it should have made this game a blowout...
2b) Devin White statistically has been having an off-year, but today he racked up 1.5 sacks and led the team in tackles, hopefully signaling he's ready and pumped for the final leg of the regular season push towards postseason.
2c) Shaq Barrett also snagged 1.5 sacks and I think he's one sack away from 10 and a double-digit sack year. He's been the most consistent pass-rusher we've got this year, and worth every FA penny we got for him.
2d) Richard Sherman came back from the injury roster and snagged an early INT for the Bucs to help make the Bills Josh Allen miserable.
2e) Even though he played for the other team, props to QB Josh Allen for leading his struggling team to a Second Half tie vs. the Bucs. He also led Buffalo with 109 rushing yards (!!!) which reads like the Bills had figured out Tampa is vulnerable to a scrambling quarterback...
3) Yes, Tampa Bay is at 10-3, currently on pace for one of their best regular seasons ever. Yes, this was a close win over a team with a winning record. No, the Bucs do NOT look like they're the most dominant team in the NFC right now. For all the talent, for all the coaching and leadership, for all the lucky bounces, this Bucs team still looks to me like a racecar engine stuck in third gear.
4) Statistics of the Game: First Downs. Bills garnered 27, Bucs with 26. Just one sign of how close this game was.
4a) Rushing yards: Bills broke through against a touted Bucs' run defense with a total of 173 yards (!!!) most of that from Allen's scrambling. On 19 carries, that meant the Bills got a 9.1 yard-per-attempt average, practically first downs most times. Bucs got to 137 yards behind Fournette's effort, but only 4.7 yards per attempt.
4b) PENALTIES WILL BE THE DEATH OF US: Bucs got called on 4 penalties overall... to the Bills' 7 flags, with the Bucs earning 3 first downs out of that. And yet, the Bills almost won. This might be a situation where the penalties were not the problem the Bucs suffered.
4c) Red Zone Offense: Bucs went 2-for-4 inside the 20, which may be where the biggest problem might have been for the Bucs. Bills were 3-for-5, making more visits and getting more TDs out of them, also a big problem for a Bucs defense that's not supposed to break like that.
4d) Third-Down Efficiency: Bills faltered here, going 2-for-13 on third downs, a lot of drive killing taking place. Bucs did better at 8-for-16, but not enough to lead their offense to score more points. Bucs are leaving TDs off the table, you can FEEL it...
5) In other NFL news: Baltimore Ravens might be in free-fall after their crushing 24-22 loss to the Cleveland Browns today. Lamar Jackson left with a foot/ankle injury and there's no sign the Ravens can get their offense working any better than this.
5a) On Thursday night, Minnesota almost let Pittsburgh back into win it but the Vikings held on and lucked out on some bad playcalls by the Steelers late in that game. It doesn't look like the Steelers are going to the Super Bowl, sorry Urinating Tree (YouTuber, must-watch).
5b) The Jacksonville Jaguars are NOW officially out of the playoffs with a huge loss to the Titans today. Embattled coach Urban Meyer left the field with this thousand-yard stare on his face. The team's locker room turmoil has gone public, and Meyer's outrage at the leaks suggests an over-reaction is about to come out and the owner will have no choice but to fire Urban before the damage gets worse.
All things considered, how much damage Urban Meyer left in his wake at UF and Ohio State, this shouldn't have shocked anyone...
5c) I know Kansas City beating the crap out of the Vegas Raiders is a sign that the Chiefs are serious contenders again, but dammit Mahomes couldn't you have thrown Kelce a couple of TDs for, you know, fantasy football numbers?! My team's getting skunked this weekend, dammit, I needed those points!
5d) Can somebody PLEASE beat New England before it gets worse?
6) In professional college football news, GO NAVY BEAT ARMY 17-13 WOOHOO NAVY WINS! Anchors Aweigh, My Boys!
6a) Another Heisman trophy going to another Alabama player and I wonder if the voters ever really consider, you know, respecting players coming from programs that aren't bought out by billionaire boosters and stuff...
7) In professional baseball news, there's been talk about the Rays finalizing a deal to play half their season in Montreal, which is the worst possible way to lose the actual fan support in Tampa Bay for the team as well as pissing off Montreal fans who want their own team instead of this crap. In this regards, I for one am glad of the lockout stopping Stu from ruining the 2022 season if it ever begins...
7a) If there's any bright side to that, there's also talk that the Tampa mayor is about to set up a solid proposal to buy out an abandoned business area in Ybor City that can get converted into a ballpark. It's near a cable rail line that could help handle game-day traffic if it's expanded properly from downtown to other key Tampa areas (like the airport/Raymond James area and the USF/Busch Gardens area).
8) In professional hockey news DAMMIT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING WILL YOU NOT LOSE TO OTTOWA?!?! /cries
9) In professional Marvel Cinematic Universe watching news: DAMMIT WE DIDN'T GET KINGPIN YET BUT WE GOT WHITE WIDOW, YELENA SHOWED UP AND NOW WE'RE GOING TO GET THE NATASHA ANGST RESOLVED OMG I GOT FEELS.
10) Next up: The Bucs get the Saints marching in for a game that could clinch the South, exorcise our demons, and make New Orleans focus more on following their basketball team. Hey, how are the Pelicans playing right n... (checks ESPN's standings) oh uh um hey how about them... wait does New Orleans have a hockey team...?