1) Previously, on "As The Swash Buckles" I made the horrifying conclusion that my watching the Bucs play was causing them - due to quantum interference as an observer - to play poorly, so I resolved to avoid watching the Falcons matchup completely.
I did notice some tweets while checking my Twitter feed, and that may have caused that Pick Six. OH GOD I AM SO SORRY. Good news, my intentional blindfolding let the Bucs hammer out a big 30-17 win over a rival team.
1a) Bucs on the road has been a tough go, losing 3 of them on the year, but with this win over the Falcons the Bucs are now 4-3 away from home, and hopefully as an easy-looking December season rolls into play the Bucs can continue a strong road showing to clinch both the NFC South AND decent home-field for the postseason.
1b) Relying entirely on statistics, I am looking at a Buccaneers team that dominated with the passing game while the defense bent but didn't break in the Red Zone where it mattered. A game with few turnovers but a lot of fumbles that hampered Atlanta's offensive drives. This was a game before the snap was seen as an easy win for the Bucs and then played like it was.
1c) Except... I know, I keep nitpicking, but the failure to get a running game going even when the Bucs had solidified the lead in the second half is a sticking point for an offense that's supposed to be more balanced than this. It also hurt a bit that our touted run defense gave up so many yards on the ground, which ought to be a strength going into a winter season where the outdoor games will be bad weather in some form or another.
2) Player of the Game: I want to name guys who don't show up often, so let us take a moment to appreciate Vita Vea, the anchor of our Bucs' defensive line. He doesn't get many tackles or sacks on his stat sheet, but he dominates that scrimmage line in ways that stop other teams often enough to give the rest of the squad the chance to make their plays. This week, he got the hot numbers racking up two key sacks and three QB hits, meaning Atlanta's QB Matt Ryan was feeling pressure most of the game.
2a) Lining up next to Vea is Ndamukong Suh, who's had some good games before today but today racked up two sacks of his own. We don't have ONE dominant pass-rusher by the looks of it, but our defense is versatile enough to get the job done.
2b) Oh, and Sam Gill got a sack too. I still have NO IDEA where we got him from.
2c) When the Bucs win, obviously Tom Brady has to get named as a key player. He got the numbers today - a league-leading 4 TDs, 368 yards passing, alas including a bad Pick Six that let the Falcons get close at halftime 20-17 - and kept himself in the running for league MVP.
2d) Two of Brady's TDs went to TE Rob Gronkowski - THE GRONK - which boosted their record number of TD tandems for QB-Receiver, QB-TE, QB-Wrestler, and QB-Gronks. I've lost track but I think that's their 197th TD tandem OF ALL TIME (okay I exaggerate, but somebody get the real numbers thanks).
2e) Brady relied a lot on the two main receivers today as well, especially with Chris Godwin who set a franchise record 15 receptions for 143 yards (no TDs, dammit). He really deserves a Pro Bowl nom, people.
2f) Cameron Brate has had an up-and-down year at TE but he did make one catch today... for a TD, so woot and huzzah.
2g) Mike Evans caught 99 yards worth today, just one yard shy of the even 100. Dammit.
2h) Brady suffered no sacks today, and with Ali Marpet back in the OL lineup we can once again sing the praises of arguably the best Offensive Line in the whole league if not in Bucs' history.
2i) Kudos to the Bucs defense making a Red Zone stand at the end of the game to prevent the Falcons from getting any moral victory from any score in the second half.
3) Tampa Bay is well atop the NFC South, 3.5 games ahead of the reeling New Orleans Saints - who currently own a tiebreaker on us - and 4 games ahead of the Panthers whom we haven't played yet and 4.5 games ahead - Bucs own the tiebreaker - of the Falcons.
Just remember, the Bucs hadn't won the division last season, even though they won the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay hasn't won the NFC South since 2007 (!) and it would be nice to have back-to-back winning seasons as well. We haven't had many of those (last one was 2007-2008, missing the playoffs that 2008).
4) Statistics of the Game: Forced fumbles. The Bucs forced the Falcons to lose the rock five separate times, alas only scooping up one for the only Bucs turnover of the day. But those fumbles disrupted their drives and their ability to keep up with the Bucs' offense.
4a) PENALTIES WILL BE THE DEATH... OF THE FALCONS. They had six penalties over the Bucs' three.
4b) Falcons garnered 127 yards rushing today, getting one rushing TD out of it and their WR/RB Cordarelle Patterson gashing us for 78 of them. If other teams figure out getting a speedy RB out there could give us fits, we could get in trouble...
4c) Red Zone Offense: Bucs went 3-for-4 meaning 21 nice points out of it, while Falcons went 1-3 and failing to punch it in at the end of the game. Bucs do need more Red Zone visits, because they mean more TD opportunities. This is also where having Gronk back healthy works because one of his TDs was in that zone.
4d) Bucs threw it 51 times instead of running it 17 times. Insanely unbalanced, even when the Bucs were ahead and could afford more run plays to burn up the clock. Was there something amiss with our offensive line's run blocking?
5) In other professional NFL news: I was going to joke about the Detroit Lions winning a game they should have tanked but I found out they dedicated today's game to the families suffering the horrors of nearby Oakland High school shooting this week and so I will respect their win.
5a) On the other hand, DAMMIT BALTIMORE YOU HAD ONE JOB, MAKE PITTSBURGH MORE MISERABLE.
5b) Indianapolis rebounded pretty well after last week's loss to the Bucs. Then again, they DID beat the struggling Houston Texans - hell, they shut em out - so that's always a good way to salve those wounds. In the meantime, RB Jonathan Taylor scored a TD in his tenth straight game and is making a good case as the RB candidate for league MVP.
5c) Arizona got Kyler Murray back healthy and while he's still reckless with the ball he's still fearless in scoring with it, leading the Cards over the Bears 33-22 and putting his team at 10-2 the best record in the whole league. I thought the NFC had to go through Los Angeles, I might have been wrong...
5d) The LA Rams DID win today, against an out-of-all-prayers Jags team, so the NFC West is still interesting to watch.
5e) I thought Miami Dolphins were done at 1-7 but DAMN they just won their fifth straight to go 6-7 and back in Wild Card contention. Any talk about trading away Tua should end right now.
5g) The Texans, by the way, are currently mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the first team to reach that ignominy. Even the Jags at 2-10 still have a shot to turn it around.
5h) In Philadelphia, every crazy Iggles fan - including the ladies - are going to start growing Gardner Minshew II disco mustaches.
6) In profession college football news: DAMMIT GEORGIA BULLDOGS YOU HAD ONE JOB! SERIOUSLY, HONESTLY, ONE JOB! STOP THE GODLESS CRIMSON TIDE. WHAT THE HELL, GEORGIA, WHAT THE HELL. YOU COULD HAVE SAVED US ALL FROM THAT RIGGED BCS CRAP BUT NOOOOOOOO NOW WE'RE STUCK WITH YOU AND THEM RUINING COLLEGE FOOTBALL AGAIN. /cries
6a) If there is any bright side this weekend, the Cincinnati Bearcats earned themselves their BCS playoff slot, becoming the first Group of Five - the lesser conferences - to reach this exalted spot. Not even Central Florida, and they SHOULD HAVE when they had that undefeated season.
6b) The FLORIDA GATORS ARE GOING TO THE GASPARILLA BOWL! THEY'RE GOING TO THE GASPA... uh... sigh... It's AT the Ray Jay, but it's NOT the more prestigious Outback Bowl. At least it'll be an interesting in-state matchup against UCF.
6c) I think Michigan finally overcame a lot of historical demons this season, stomping both Ohio St. last week and then stomping Iowa for the Big 10 title at the BCS bid.
6d) At least it kept Notre Dame (OVER! RATED!) out of it.
6e) I really think the federal Dept. of Justice ought to look into these insane coaching salaries that are getting thrown out there this off-season. It's vulgar how much money is getting signed up while players are barely getting any personal income from the game, and especially at some universities like LSU that were begging poverty just 4-5 years ago.
7) In professional baseball news, the planned lockout as part of the CBA war between owners and players started last week, and again there are no heroes in this only losers (the fans). There NEEDS to be stronger revenue sharing so the small-market teams can afford salaries, and there NEEDS to be a salary floor to force those teams to spend on players - hopefully wisely - but that all requires a salary CAP and the players union - despite such cap hurting only the few marquee names - likely won't budge on that matter. Again, call in the damn Justice Dept. and this time bring the hammer of ending that anti-trust exemption that MLB has exploited for almost 100 years.
8) In professional hockey news DAMMIT LIGHTNING WILL YOU... oh wait they're up 6-1 late in the third against a bad Philly team. Still, you guys are having a rough time in overtime play, PLEASE fix that.
8a) Did ANYBODY have the New York Islanders being THIS bad this early? Maybe it's that new arena they had built out in the middle of nowhere, players aren't used to that ice yet.
9) In professional binge watching news OMFG DID YOU WATCH HAWKEYE THIS WEEK I SWEAR THAT WAS WILSON FISK CHUCKLING OFF-CAMERA I SWEAR IT WAS WE'RE GETTING A DAREDEVIL CROSSOVER TO THE OFFICIAL MCU THIS WILL BE AWESOME ALTHOUGH HOW WILL DISNEY PLUS EVER SHOW A PUNISHER SHOW THAT WOULD BE MESSY AT BEST...
9a) Also, that League of Legends anime series Arcane is DAMN GOOD to look at, that animation is BEAUTIFUL. Also, "You're hot, cupcake" is my new pickup line if I ever go out socializing ever again.
9b) Still watching the Beatles: Get Back documentary and I just got to the moment where Beatle Paul just magically strums the song "Get Back" into existence in under five minutes. While Beatle Ringo is watching him almost bored while Beatle George YAWNS. Goddamn, those lads were effing GENIUSES...
10) Next up: Bucs return home to face a team with an actual winning record in the 7-4 Buffalo Bills. The Bills will be coming off a HUGE Monday nighter against the EVIL PATRIOTS, so will there be an emotional letdown? Will the Bills be coming in hot off a big win or angry off a bad loss? Who knows?! The good news is, Bucs so far are unbeaten at home. We shall see...
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