It wasn’t hard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense to get amped up for games in 2020. Being underappreciated will bring out the dog in any competitor.
In 2021 however, things are going to be different.
Not only is the Bucs team, in general, being touted as a highly favored repeat competitor for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angles next February; the defense is receiving high marks as well.
Look around the internet and you’ll see Tampa Bay among the top teams in power rankings, and you’ll find the defensive unit themselves high on the list as well. This time last year the defense was a question mark to many. Especially the 32nd ranked secondary.
Remember that? Carlton Davis III and his defensive back partners certainly did. They used it as a rallying cry all year long. Whenever they shut down an opponent like Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, they pointed out their bottom-of-the-league rankings.
When they got whooped by others, like Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and the Kansas City Chiefs in the regular season, it just made them resent the doubt that much more.
It never shook their confidence in each other. Don’t take carrying the grudge as impacting their egos. It fed the ego, inspired them even.
Now, the fuel is gone.
The talk may still be about Tom Brady. Now though, it’s not about whether or not the legendary quarterback can be legendary outside of the New England Patriots organization. It’s about just how legendary he might be still.
His legendary status comes from a mixture of hard work, determination, and...delusion.
The defense has two of the three. Now they need the delusion.
What do I mean by that? Well, it’s like Michael Jordan making up stories about unproven ballers outdueling him and talking trash to get him motivated for games that may not warrant the usual effort and tenacity.
It’s when someone pokes fun at Brady or undersells his abilities, and he - well - takes that personally. It helps unlock something normally reserved for primetime and big lights.
In the NFL, every game is important. Whether it’s Mahomes quarterbacking the opponent or Nick Foles. And the defense, especially the secondary, will now be the hunted. As they wanted to be.
But without that fire from the outside coming in, it’s going to be on Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and the rest of Todd Bowles’ unit to find the extra gear as they defend the best offense seventeen NFL teams can throw at them in 2021.