1) What else can be said about a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has regressed from it's 2021 offensive performances to the dreck today that's costing us wins?
1a) Once again, the Bucs struggled to maintain drives. Once again, the Bucs obsessed over a running attack when we need more passing throws downfield to garner more first downs. Once again, the Bucs failed to reach the Red Zone often enough to put more than 20 points on the board.
This was a team in 2021 that was averaging 30 points a game. Granted, that wasn't every game, but at least more often than not our offense was getting 4 to 5 TDs a game. Nowadays it's a goddamn miracle if the Bucs score 3 TDs at all.
1b) What's happened is obvious: the coaching change from a more aggressive, risk-taking Bruce Arians squad to a more conservative and "Play to NOT Lose" team led by Todd Bowles. Bowles may be a great defensive coordinator - and overall, the Bucs defense is playing well (just not forcing more turnovers or sacks than we should be seeing) - but as a Head Coach he's failing to take the risks at the right time - say, in the last minute of the game when the Bucs are driving and could get at least in range for a winning field goal - to earn the wins.
If Arians was HC right now, this Bucs lineup should be 8-3 not 5-6.
1c) And we've already - I use the plural here because the regular commentators on BucsNation are screaming the same thing - complained about the questionable playcalling out of OC Byron Leftwich. And along with the "WHY DO WE KEEP RUNNING UP THE MIDDLE ON FIRST DOWN" cries of anguish, we now have "Where are the tight ends in passing situations?" Brate is back, and we've seen Otton play well. In third down situations we ought to be working our tight ends past the first down markers to keep drives alive, and yet...
1d) And there's been enough games to point out that QB Tom Brady is definitely aging out. Yes, he can still throw a good deep ball, but his accuracy and field awareness seems to have dropped off a cliff. He's lost his sync with Mike Evans, which complicates our entire offense more than the lack of effective off-tackle run plays.
1e) Take note: We had a Bye week to prepare for the second half of this season, and these Bucs came out and fell flat on their faces when the game was on the line. I mentioned before this Bye that the Bucs could not afford to lose any games the rest of the way if they want to present themselves for one more postseason with Brady at the wheel. Well, they just lost. Instead of a 12-5 season we're now LUCKY if we'll get to 11-6. 10-7 would look like a F-CKING victory right now.
2) I got nothing else to say, so let's go to Statistics: Third Down Efficiency. Bucs went 4-for-15. The clearest sign of all that the Bucs offense just could NOT sustain drives all day. Browns were 5-for-17, so they were just as bad at that. But they pulled off a few more big plays than we could, and that mattered a lot in overtime.
2a) Rushing yards allowed: Bucs gave up 189 yards rushing against the Browns. Cleveland's Nick Chubb lead their team with 116 yards including the 28 yard scamper that got the Browns into the Red Zone late in the Fourth Quarter to tie up the game.
2b) PENALTIES WILL BE THE DEATH OF US: This was one of our most penalized games all season, racking up 9 yellow flags for 70 yards. That meant stalled drives, bad field position, everything gone wrong.
3) One of the worst things out of this overtime loss is the injury to OT Tristan Wirfs. Our most impactful linesman on the roster, playing at an All-Pro level, and he's gone for 4 weeks due to an ankle sprain (his leg got so twisted most observers thought he was done for the year). The Bucs are facing their most dire final half of a season in recent memory - not since 2008, when the Bucs were 9-3 and one win away from clinching the NFC South - and we're with a shaky offensive line that's bound to make our stalled offense even worse.
4) In other NFL news: the New York Jets benched their reckless self-serving QB Zach Wilson and the backup guy Mike White blew it up with a 315 yard performance that supercharged their offense to match a surprisingly good defense. That sound you heard was Wilson getting kicked out of the Jets locker room and him stomping off to a fax machine to send the USFL his resume.
4a) The Miami Dolphins recovered from the horrors of Tua's concussion nightmares to become top of the AFC East, tied with Buffalo for the lead but poised to own it by postseason. Trading for WR Tyreek Hill at the top of his game was a solid addition.
4b) Losing Tyreek hasn't stopped the Kansas City Chiefs at all. They're right now the best-performing team overall in the NFL. The Super Bowl is legit theirs at the moment (except of course everyone was saying it was Buffalo's time less than a month ago).
4c) Is there anything more delicious than the schadenfreude of watching the Green Bay Packers collapse into a 4-8 mess? Arrogant A-A-Ron struggling all season to lead an offense that's been as confused as our Bucs, with a defense losing key DL talent to injury, and obviously out of contention for the NFC North title. This is the worst they've ever looked in the Rodgers era, and signals every likelihood that Rodgers is leaving either by retirement or trade by season's end.
4e) The Super Bowl race is pretty much down to four teams: Philadelphia, Kansas City, Minnesota, and Miami. Everybody else are showing too many weak spots and loss of talent to be viable threats by January.
5) In professional college news: Shocking upsets to Clemson and LSU has put a scare into the BCS people into thinking they won't have two SEC teams and one ACC and one Big-10 team to fill up their playoff spots. They're looking at inviting an unwanted but unbeaten TCU, and likely a one-loss Pac-12 (ugh) USC.
That all could come crashing down thanks to the conference championship matchups this weekend. Just if (don't laugh) LSU upsets Georgia in the SEC, there's no way the BCS will invite a 3-loss Tigers squad. What happens if Michigan loses to Purdue? What happens if TCU falls to a 3-loss Kansas (it's possible). Southern Cal loses to a 3-loss Utah?
We are facing a likely 4-team playoff lineup made up of the marquee programs - Alabama, Ohio State, a one-loss Georgia and/or a one-loss Michigan - that DID NOT WIN THEIR OWN CONFERENCES. The hypocrisy of the playoff system will be exposed for all to see and none will excuse it away.
5a) In local college news, I attended the USF-UCF series finale - as Central Florida is fleeing for the Big-12 money - and watched as a bad Bulls squad gave away 28 early points only to storm back and take the lead 39-38 to arguably clinch an upset win and close out the War On I-4 on a good note. Instead, with five minutes to go and driving on offense, the Bulls insanely call THREE STRAIGHT RUN PLAYS UP THE MIDDLE for no gains, punting away even a chance at getting a field goal to make it harder on the Knights late in the Fourth, and essentially coughing up that lead to let UCF escape with a 46-39 win. GODS. WE HAD IT. WE WERE GOING TO WIN. AND THEN BYRON LEFTWICH SHOWED UP. /rage
WHY would Deion Sanders even want to coach for us? We can't have that much money left after all the fired head coach salaries we're still paying off.
6) In professional hockey news: GODDAMMIT LIGHTNING, WE NEED MORE WINS. Where's our defense, guys? Seriously, we're giving up far too many goals this season.
7) In professional World Cup soccer news: What the hell, Canada? YOU HAD ONE JOB.
7a) The entire World Cup season for the US relies on winning against Iran this Tuesday. Talk about sociopolitical ramifications on a global scale. In the meantime, send all moral support you can to the women of Iran protesting for their very lives right now.
8) In NaNoWriMo writing news, I'm up to 46k words and should be able to reach the 50k mark by Wednesday's deadline. NOW I JUST GOTTA FINISH THE DAMN NOVEL for editing!!! (mutter grumble)
9) Next up: Bucs host a Monday nighter matchup versus our rival Saints. Yes, this is a must-win game, but a must-win at a level we haven't seen in years. Not just for keeping a division lead, not just for pride against a team that's humiliated us in regular season since 2018. This is for avoiding the long and sad history of a Buccaneers franchise of bad seasons and broken hearts. We NEED this win just to stay alive, people.