1) Okay, missed most of the afternoon due to being at the parents' to troubleshoot their Google Email woes, and then getting stuck in traffic on the interstates (JESUS, there was a bottleneck at a TRUCK ON FIRE just north of the Fletcher exit), and then slower traffic in the monsoon rains on I-4 and... okay let's get to the game instead of a bloody travelogue here.
BUCS WIN BUCS WIN BUCS WIN (here's hoping everybody in the stands were vaccinated, masked, and healthy)!
1a) While the final score makes it look like a dominant win, let's be honest that it was touch-and-go for most parts of the game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense had issues with consistency on offensive drives, while the defense was giving up a little too much with soft zones allowing the Atlanta Falcons to hunt-and-peck for gains and keep their scoring chances alive. For a brief moment at the end of the Third Quarter, the Falcons got to within 3 points (28-25) and making it look like the Bucs weren't able to stay ahead on the scoreboard in the Fourth.
1b) What it looks like our Bucs D is going to do, based on a blitz-happy defensive front, is try to stick at a bend-don't-break type defense that waits to exploit the other team's offensive miscues. An over-reliance on forcing turnovers... which thankfully the Bucs were able to do in the Fourth Quarter to put the game away. Still, it's a risky scheme, and against a better offense (like the Cowboys last week) it's asking a lot of a porous secondary to step up at will.
1c) While the defense remains a problem spot, the offense was able to continue its' high-scoring ways as Tom Brady threw for FIVE touchdowns, underscoring the reality for the rest of the league that when it comes to the End Zone the Bucs will score there. Also, it's nice to see them rack up 35 points, because I was worried I had jinxed them since the playoffs to get stuck at 31... whew. That's over.
2) In terms of Player of the Game, you cannot overlook TB 12 as Tom Freaking Brady was efficient as hell, not exactly overwhelmed with the yards (276 passing) but delivering them in the End Zone five times at a pace few other QBs half his age can only dream of doing. Granted, against a better pass defense, Brady might only throw three TDs, but again with so many other targets to throw to no defense will be able to key onto one guy.
2a) Speaking of targets, last week Mike Evans was quiet at WR and this week he dragged in two TD catches. Granted, he didn't go over 100 yards receiving, but he's becoming a Red Zone threat that other defenses can't ignore.
2b) I spoke with mom as we were able to watch the first half of the game during early dinner, and she concurred with me that TE Rob Gronkowski simply makes football TOO MUCH FUN. All he does is catch touchdown throws from his bro Brady.
2c) Showing more consistency in the first two weeks, WR Chris Godwin caught 4 of 5 throws his way for 62 yards and a touchdown. Compared to Evans who was cold last week, and to Antonio Brown who was cold this week, God-for-the-Win is turning into the reliable receiving threat that every No.2 WR guy aspires to be.
2d) If there is a Player of the Quarter award, Safety Mike Edwards would win it for his Fourth Quarter appearance shutting down the Falcons' offense when the Bucs needed it most. He forced one Interception on his own, jumping on a short pass and knocking it to himself away from the Falcons receiver, and sprinting it in for a Pick-Six and clinching the game. Then he followed up the next Falcons drive when Carlton Davis knocked up a short pass in the air that Edwards was able to snag and dance in for a second Pick-Six, something that hasn't happened in the league for nine years and hasn't happened for the Bucs since Dwight Smith in that epic Super Bowl beatdown of the Raiders in 2003.
2e) The sole sack of the game for the Bucs went to Ndamukong Suh, who led a defensive front that effectively shut down Atlanta's running threat and gave Matt Ryan headaches often... just not often enough...
3) Among the concerns I have for this Bucs team, the lack of a consistent rushing threat on offense is worrying. Without a genuine rushing game, the play action calls Brady likes to pull off will get harder to sell. Running back by committee between Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, and Giovani Bernard isn't establishing a guy who can rush 100 yds a game to make opposing defenses guess themselves. While Fournette has been gaining more yards on the ground these first two games, we need to see him out there more and making more runs.
3a) We may have to wonder about the offensive line. This week they gave up three sacks to a decent Falcons' defensive front, and they are part of the blocking necessary for the running game to improve. There are groups out there who are able to track individual offensive linesmen's performances, can they tell us anything now about the OL these first two games?
3b) One of the nitpicks I have isn't for the players but the referees. The NFL set up harsher taunting penalties this season, and one of the results is that a player running in a score has to avoid any premature celebrating before crossing the goal line. On Edwards' second Pick-Six he turned around to celebrate with Carlton Davis, and the refs flagged that for taunting and gave him a misconduct warning. This is a week after Tyreek Hill backflipped over the goalline for a touchdown that wasn't flagged. There is serious inconsistencies here, where the difference between celebrating with teammates (allowed) and taunting opposing players (who were nowhere near Edwards) depends on referees who STILL can't get it right.
3c) One final nitpick involves Gene The Machine Deckerhoff, the radio play-by-play caller for the Bucs. I was able to listen to the game on-radio during the Fourth Quarter, and by God he kept getting names mixed up. He mixed up the names of the QBs (calling Ryan Brady half the time) and then as Mike Edwards made both Pick-Sixes Gene called him Mike EVANS. BOTH TIMES. Gene, I love you, you've been the voice of the Bucs for ages (since 1989? whoa), your calls for "FIRE THEM CANNONS" and "THERE'S THE DAGGER" are epic in our time, but man I am sorry you are having serious problems keeping up with what's going on the field. Heartbreaking.
4) Statistics of the game: I WILL SCREAM ABOUT EFFING PENALTIES UNTIL THE DAY I DIE. The Bucs were called for nine flags for 83 yards, three of them were serious miscues at the end of the First Half that allowed the Falcons to get within field goal range to make it a 21-10 score. Yes, the Bucs were in the lead then and would win the game, but you NEVER let the other team go into the locker room with momentum on their side. And I will grant that the Edwards taunting was a poor judgment call by the refs, but that doesn't justify the other legit flag thrown during the game.
4a) Red Zone Offense: Bucs went 4-for-5 in the Red Zone, with that missed visit an early sack-fumble of Brady that ended up not hurting us. Falcons did go 3-for-4 in the Red Zone, which is how they were able to keep up with us.
But remember how it was under Jameis Winston, when our Red Zone visits would be like 1-to-4 or 2-to-5 and we'd lose games by a touchdown or field goal? With Brady, Red Zone visits are an 80 percent guarantee (hi, Gronk!) for a TD now...
4b) Turnovers: This hurt the Falcons more with three costly INTs and two of them back-to-back Pick-Sixes, while the Bucs coughed up a fumble by Brady which thankfully ended in a punt by the Falcons.
4c) Rushing yards: Bucs had a total of 82 yards over Falcons' 55, and the Bucs had a 3.9 yard-per-carry average. If we had a more consistent ball-carrier...
5) In other NFL news: Speaking of Jameis Winston, after that 5-TD performance last week for the Saints that made all the Jameis defenders crow to the skies, he fell back down to his mean this week against the Carolina Panthers. Pressured all day by a solid D-line, Jameis threw 111 total yards for zero TDs and two INTs. That's one of Winston's constant woes: His INCONSISTENCY from week-to-week. He'll give you a great game, and then flop the next two or three. Granted, the New Orleans offense failed entirely today - the rushing game was non-existent and their prime RB Kamara rushed for only five yards (!) - but Jameis is still not anyone's best of the best yet.
5b) If you want an underrated consistent QB, you should have stuck it out with Teddy Bridgewater, who has moved on from the Vikings, Saints and Panthers and doing quite well with a Denver Broncos team that's been looking for a smart effective QB for years.
5c) Speaking of QB play, Sam Darnold now with the Panthers had a solid game with 305 yards passing 2 TDs and calling his offense to a 2-0 early season lead. Compare that with his previous team the New York Jets who got flattened by the Patriots today 25-6 with their rookie QB Zach Wilson throwing for 4 INTs and probably seeing the ghosts Darnold saw when he quarterbacked the Jets. So maybe... it's NOT the QB that's the problem, New Yawk.
5d) Any other early season surprises? Las Vegas Raiders are 2-0 and actually looking like a solid team on both sides of the ball. Dammit. I think Gruden finally figured sh-t out.
5e) Indianapolis Colts are 0-2 but they've been beaten by really good teams. It's a damn shame that a solid team with a decent shot for a postseason is getting knocked this early. They are way better than the other 0-2 teams out there.
6) In professional Major League Baseball news: DAMMIT RAYS YOU'RE GONNA MISS OUT ON EARNING YOUR FIRST 100-WIN SEASON AT THIS RATE! NOOOOO STOP LOSING TO THE TIGERS NOOOOOOOOO.
That said, the Tampa Bay Rays ARE at 92 wins, still ahead of everybody in the AL East by 7 games, with a magic number of 5 (or 6) to clinch the division, and ahead of the AL itself for home-field advantage heading into October. JUST DO NOT BLOW THIS, RAYS.
6a) That said, there's nothing else finer when your team is winning the East while watching the much-ballyhooed New York Yankees struggle in fourth place behind both resurgent Boston and Toronto teams. BWHAHAHAHA.
6c) Meanwhile, quiet little ole Milwaukee Brewers are clinching a playoff spot already at 91 wins and could possibly be a giant-killer (literal AND metaphoric) this October. Don't sleep on these guys.
And speaking of Milwaukee, remember how I am crowing - like a lot of other Tampa Bay sports fans - about having the Bucs AND Lightning AND Rays at the apex of each professional league they're in? Milwaukee has their own crowing with their basketball Bucks team clinching the NBA title (their second since 1971!!!). Just think of how that fanbase will be if the Brewers reach this year's World Series.
7) In professional college football news (since that's no longer an amateur level at this point): DAMMIT FLORIDA GATORS YOU HAD ONE JOB.
7a) So we're looking at the once-vaunted Florida State Seminoles floundering at a miserable 0-3 start (losing to a lower division team in Jacksonville St. for God's sake) and the fanbase openly tweeting that things might have been a bit better under Willie Taggart...
7b) How's this? The floundering USF Bulls finally won a game and are sitting at 1-2 in the American Conference. If they keep this up and outperform FSU we could see the ACC ask for a trade-off... (evil grin)
7b) Speaking of the AAC (American where USF is and where UCF won't be by 2025), their pursuit of adding a team like Boise State looks like pure desperation: Trying to get a perennial poll-qualifying team like BSU so that the conference remains relevant for playoff/bowl implications. Problem is the logistics: traveling to them and them traveling to a mostly East Coast conference is going to eat up airline costs like crazy. BSU is better off waiting for the PAC-12 to get desperate and bid for them.
7c) DAMMIT AUBURN YOU BROKE MY MOM'S HEART. Also, losing to Penn St. is gonna make the Big 10 fans all giddy.
7d) Did ANYONE have Kentucky's football team at 3-0 already...?
8) In professional hockey news: DAMMIT LIGHTNING YOU HAD ONE JOB. Oh wait, the preseason hasn't even started yet. Sorry.
9) In professional competitive knitting news, my library is starting up a semi-pro crochet team looking to do battle with the other Florida crocheting libraries. It's a man's life in the Florida Library Association's Adult Activities Committee...!
10) Next up: Tampa Bay makes their first road trip game, heading to spanking-new SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles to face the Rams. The Rams had a tough game this week vs. the Colts, but that defense is going to be one of the scariest the Bucs will see all year. Can our high-octane offense get past that Rams DL...?
There's no polling, so PLEASE leave comments below.
P.S. Now I'm seeing that the AUTO LINK to players' names isn't working, only team names. What gives, SB Nation?