Whew. A lot to unpack after this one. You have a defense that melted down in the first half, a player that publicly quit on his team, and an improbable comeback after trailing by fourteen points. On top of that, you had two starting corners that tried to fly to New Jersey the morning of the game, had the pilot call in with Covid, they end up in Canada, and land 25 minutes before kickoff.
Let’s get to it.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Antonio Brown is pathetic. Look, I tried to defend this guy numerous times. I didn’t want him to join the Bucs last year because of the baggage he carried with him. The Bucs signed him and I tried to judge him strictly based on what he did since his arrival in Tampa. Then he gets suspended for forging a covid vaccination card. The team and head coach stood by him following the suspension and knew he was going to be a key component to any championship run with the loss of Chris Godwin. Then, inexplicably, during the third quarter, Brown stripped off his pads, threw his shirt and gloves into the stands, bounced through the end zone and threw up the “deuces” and left. It was disgusting, it was confusing, and it was selfish. He figuratively spit in the faces of Tom Brady, Bruce Arians, Jason Licht, and every player that defended him and stood by him following his signing and suspension. He proved all his doubters and haters right. He was given second, third, fourth chances with teams and was lining up to be a key contributor to the Bucs in the postseason. And instead, he walks out on them - half naked - and likely ended his NFL career. At this point, I have to believe that there is something mentally wrong with him either undiagnosed or ignored that has played into this level of continued behavior. Regardless, he’s gone now and he’s only got himself to blame.
2.) Who needs him? I say good riddance and who the heck needs AB? Not the Bucs, because they have Cyril Grayson. Whatever has gotten into him the past few weeks is working - because he has been an absolute stud. I realize it’s going to be somewhat lost because of the AB drama (I’m guilty of it as well since I placed this at number two) but Grayson had two key plays for the Bucs to spark their come-from-behind victory. Converting on 3rd-and-20 then scoring the go-ahead 33-yard touchdown with fifteen seconds remaining. Grayson finished as the second leading receiver with six catches for 81 yards. That’s 162 yards on nine catches in the last two weeks. Grayson has emerged as a legitimate number two receiver next to Mike Evans which is something the Bucs sorely need now thanks to a certain head case.
3.) RoJo - what happened? After a great performance last week against the Panthers, RoJo couldn’t get anything going against the Jets. Just 10 carries for 26 yards and he spent the second half on the bench (though the Bucs said he had an ankle injury and was questionable to return) in favor of Ke’Sahwn Vaughn and Le’Veon Bell. Another opportunity to establish himself as the go-to option for the lead back and he was consistently hit for losses before being pulled from the game. When he’s had issues catching the ball and picking up blitzes, not running the ball effectively is going to hinder his ability to see the field. Bell, who is still learning the offense, played well in his first real opportunity. Bell finished with just five rushing yards - including the game sealing two point conversion - but had 30 yards on three catches, one of which was a key third down conversion on the game winning drive. Expect to see even more Bell next week as he continues to get more acclimated to the offense.
4.) Also, defense - what happened? This defense hadn’t given up a touchdown in two weeks. All of a sudden, they can’t get a stop against the Jets? It was a brutal first half. Look, I understand the Bucs were without both starting outside linebackers, their captain inside linebacker, and didn’t have two of their three starting corners early in the game - then lost Sean Murphy-Bunting to injury (possibly in part because of the lack of warmups), but it was still the often anemic Jets offense. Granted, the defense stepped up in the second half including a crucial fourth down stop with just over two minutes to play, but it shouldn’t have been that close to begin with. They went from looking like a championship-caliber defense even without big name players to looking like a glaring weakness. Just remember, everyone is coming back...
5.) Welcome back, Gronk. After being all but invisible the last two weeks, Rob Gronkowski was an absolute beast for the Buccaneers on Sunday. He was the team leader in receptions (7), targets (10), and yards (115). That’s a connection that needs to be on track with the playoffs approaching and some were becoming concerned that it wasn’t there the last two games. Hopefully, those fears were put to rest on Sunday, but with only one of the “big three” receivers left, defenses may go back to trying to eliminate Gronk from the offensive gameplan, forcing the Bucs to beat them in other ways.
6.) Down to the wire. With the Rams pulling off a last minute win against the Ravens, the Bucs need to have the 49ers win next week to help propel them into the second seed. The Cowboys’ loss to Arizona means that the Bucs are now sitting in the three seed. A three way tie is still possible, but it looks like the Bucs just need to hope that their Hall of Fame safety’s team can pull off another win against the Rams so they can secure the number two seed, positioning themselves even better for another postseason run.
Six Numbers To Consider
67 - Career fourth quarter come-from-behind wins by Tom Brady
81 - Current uniform number available for any receiver the Bucs sign this week
54 - Yards needed by Mike Evans next week to finish with 1,000 on the season yet again
1 - Win from the most wins in a season in franchise history
31 - 100+ yard games by Gronk in his career, tied for the most in NFL history by a tight end
73 - Career touchdowns by Mike Evans, 41st most in NFL history
Six Best Tweets
You guys are the best eyes and ears a reporter could ask for, passing along stuff like this. This certainly looks to be the flight pattern that Dean and SMB took to get from Tampa to Jets game this morning. Not quite through Canada, but that's quite a curl route: pic.twitter.com/Jdyad8h4ps— Greg Auman (@gregauman) January 2, 2022
The good news is, the Bucs shouldn't have to play against bad teams in the playoffs. Those are apparently the only teams they struggle with, right?— Bailey Adams (@BaileyJAdams22) January 2, 2022
2022 has already been nothing but chaos.— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) January 2, 2022
Six Reasons The Bucs Should Sign Larry Fitzgerald
Following the unceremonious exit by Brown, maybe it’s time for Fitz to join the Bucs.
Shout out to my son, Beckett, for the idea and helping me with my list on this one.
6.) He and Tom are already radio buddies, joining forces on SiriusXM’s “Let’s Go” with Jim Grey
5.) He’s not the receiver he used to be, but still reliable hands to help move the chains on those short-to-intermediate routes
4.) He’s the only person that could compete with Richard Sherman for “best hair on the Bucs”
3.) No learning curve. Fitz has played under Arians and knows the offense. He could step in and play immediately
2.) What better way to cleanse the palate than by signing the literal polar opposite human from AB
1.) Because Larry deserves one more shot at accomplishing the one thing that has eluded him for his entire career - a Super Bowl
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Green Bay Packers - Road to Los Angeles goes through Green Bay
2.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Short-handed, in game distractions, still find a way
3.) Kansas City Chiefs - Minor setback, still the tops of the AFC
4.) Buffalo Bills - Hitting their stride at the right time
5.) Dallas Cowboys - They can hang with anybody
6.) Los Angeles Rams - Their games may be close, but wins are wins