What a magical year it’s been for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers... Last March, they decided to move on from their 2015 No. 1 overall pick, Jameis Winston. And to replace him, all they did was sign the greatest quarterback of all time. From the moment Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay, expectations were immediately high for him and his new team. The roster continued to get even more star-studded as the spring and summer went on and now, in this moment, the Bucs are preparing to play for the Lombardi Trophy in their home stadium on Feb. 7.
Leading up to the Super Bowl LV matchup between the Bucs and Chiefs, we’re going to take a look back at Tampa Bay’s journey to this point. Today, we continue with the second quarter of the 2020 season.
After a 3-1 start in the first quarter of the 2020 season, the Buccaneers hit the road for their first primetime matchup of the season. Playing a Thursday Night Football game against the Bears in Chicago, Tampa Bay never really found second gear. After jumping out to a 13-0 lead, the Bucs couldn’t put the Bears away. Despite holding that 13-point lead at the two-minute warning in the first half, they headed into the locker room down 14-13. A David Montgomery touchdown run, a Ke’Shawn Vaughn fumble and a touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Jimmy Graham gave the home team a slim lead at halftime.
In the second half, Tampa Bay’s offense couldn’t muster up much of anything against Chicago’s stout defense. The Bucs managed just two field goal drives, which left the door open for Foles and his offense to march down the field and set up former Buc Cairo Santos for a game-winning 38-yard field goal with 1:13 to go. What little hopes the visitors had of coming back went nowhere, with Tom Brady seeming to forget what down it was to end the game. Getting flagged 11 times for 109 yards and going 1-of-3 inside the red zone certainly didn’t help the Bucs as they dropped to 3-2 on the year. And even worse, the team lost Vita Vea to a fractured ankle in this game.
Top Performers: Ronald Jones II (17 carries, 106 yards); Tyler Johnson (Four catches, 61 yards); Carlton Davis (Seven solo tackles, two passes defended, interception); Ryan Succop (4-of-4 on field goals, 1-of-1 on extra point attempts)
Coming back home after a Thursday Night Football loss that saw them look largely lost on offense, the Bucs weren’t given much of a chance against the 4-0 Packers. And things didn’t look great early, with Green Bay going up 10-0 in the first quarter. Tampa Bay wasn’t fazed, though, despite its offense getting out to a slow start. The defense managed to give the team a spark, with Jamel Dean coming through and delivering a 32-yard pick six off of Aaron Rodgers to bring the Bucs within 10-7. On the very next drive, Mike Edwards intercepted Rodgers to set up a two-yard touchdown run by Ronald Jones II. A couple of three-and-outs for the Packers led to two more Buccaneer touchdowns before halftime, giving the home team a commanding 28-10 lead heading into the locker room. Tyler Johnson and Rob Gronkowski both came up with their first touchdown catches of the season in the second quarter.
While the second half wasn’t as explosive for Tampa Bay, its defense continued to dominate. Five second-half drives for the Packers resulted in five punts, and by the time Green Bay was sent home with a 38-10 loss, the Bucs had racked up five sacks and 13 quarterback hits. on the afternoon. Tom Brady and the offense still hadn’t necessarily found its stride, but the defense set them up to do their part in what felt very much like a statement win midway through October.
Top Performers: Ronald Jones II (23 carries, 113 yards, two touchdowns); Rob Gronkowski (Five catches, 78 yards, touchdown); Devin White (10 tackles, nine solo, sack, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits); Lavonte David (Eight tackles, six solo, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hits); Jason Pierre-Paul (Six tackles, two solo, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits); Jamel Dean (32-yard interception return for touchdown)
The 4-2 Bucs were supposed to meet the 3-2 Raiders on Sunday Night Football in Week 7, but the game got moved up to an afternoon kickoff due to COVID-19 precautions. The change didn’t hinder Tampa Bay’s offense at all, as it finally looked like the star-studded group that it was expected to be, putting up 45 points in what turned out to be a 45-20 victory over Las Vegas. Things didn’t start out all that impressively, with the Bucs falling behind 10-7 early in the second quarter. But two Tom Brady touchdown passes—one to Rob Gronkowski and the other to Scotty Miller with 17 seconds left before halftime—gave the visitors an 11-point lead at the break.
The Raiders hung around for quite some time, though, and got within 24-20 early in the fourth quarter. But the Bucs ran away with it from there, scoring 21 straight to end the game. Brady hit Chris Godwin for a four-yard score, then Antoine Winfield Jr. came up with a clutch interception to set up a Ronald Jones II touchdown run that made it 38-20. And just for good measure, Brady hit Tyler Johnson for another score to finish off an emphatic victory that got Tampa Bay to 5-2.
Top Performers: Tom Brady (33-of-45, 369 yards, four passing touchdowns, rushing touchdown); Scotty Miller (Six catches, 109 yards, touchdown); Chris Godwin (Nine catches, 88 yards, touchdown); Devin White (11 tackles, nine solo, three sacks); Antoine Winfield Jr. (First career interception)
Breaking out the red jerseys for the first time in 2020, the Bucs headed up north for a Monday Night Football matchup against the Giants. Continuing what would turn out to be a troubling trend throughout the regular season, Tampa Bay once again struggled to perform in a primetime game, failing to put 1-6 New York away all night. The Bucs didn’t find the end zone until the six-minute mark in the third quarter, with Rob Gronkowski catching a three-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to put the visitors up 15-14. The Giants answered with a field goal to retake the lead, setting the stage for a tense fourth quarter.
A six-play, 66-yard drive for Tampa Bay ended with Mike Evans catching an eight-yard score from Brady with 9:02 to go, then Ryan Succop connected on a 38-yard field goal with 3:41 left to put the Bucs up eight. But the Giants still wouldn’t go away, as Daniel Jones led a 13-play, 70-yard drive and connected with Golden Tate for a 19-yard touchdown with 28 seconds left on the clock. But Antoine Winfield Jr. came through on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, breaking up Jones’ pass to preserve the victory. Winfield was originally called for pass interference, but the officials picked up the flag. That allowed the Bucs to hang on for a 25-23 win that improved their record to 6-2 at the halfway point of the season.
Top Performers: Tom Brady (28-of-40, 279 yards, two touchdowns); Mike Evans (Five catches, 55 yards, touchdown); Rob Gronkowski (Four catches, 41 yards, touchdown); Jason Pierre-Paul (Seven tackles, five solo, sack, two tackles for loss); Carlton Davis (Three tackles, two solo, two passes defended, interception); Sean Murphy-Bunting (Six tackles, three solo, interception); Ryan Succop (4-of-4 on field goals, 1-of-1 on extra point attempts)
Second Quarter Recap
The second quarter of the season was equally as successful for the Bucs as the first quarter was, at least in terms of overall record. But the second quarter felt a bit stronger for Tampa Bay in terms of its cohesion and on-field performances. While the Bears and Giants games left a lot to be desired, the wins over the Packers and Raiders showed just how dangerous this Bucs team could be when it put everything together. The Bucs had seemingly found their best in those games, which meant they had the second half of the season to figure out how to reach those heights consistently. However, the third quarter of the season would prove to be a bit of a mess. But we’ll get to that another day...
Be sure to check back throughout the week for the rest of our “Road to Super Bowl LV” series!