In a season of embarrassing moments, that game was by far the worst of it. There was supposed to be the momentum of a big Monday night comeback over the Saints, the Tom Brady homecoming, the rookie quarterback taken with the last pick in the draft.
Instead, it was a comedy of errors that left Bucs fans laughing through the pain - if only to avoid shedding tears.
Let’s Pick Six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) This Team Is Just Bad. There’s no other way to sugarcoat it anymore. The Bucs are a bad football team. The G.O.A.T. isn’t goating, the defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed, the offensive line is putrid, and the coaching shouldn’t make it to another season. They were out-played, out-coached, out-schemed, and out-performed in every conceivable fashion. Todd Bowles looks out of his depth, Byron Leftwich looks completely lost without the guidance of Bruce Arians, Mike Evans looks beyond frustrated with his usage, and Tom Brady looks like he’s not completely there - both mentally or physically. This season that was supposed to be and the season that is are two drastically different things.
2.) Speaking Of Brady. I don’t know what’s going on there. He’s still leaving passes short and behind his targets, he put everything he had into a throw to Julio Jones that was still a few yards short, and the disconnect with Evans is as apparent as ever. The FOX camera crew even caught Evans and Brady getting into a heated discussion on the sideline. Maybe it’s the off-field issues, maybe it’s the multiple times Brady has missed time from training camp to Robert Kraft’s wedding, to scheduled days off. Maybe it’s the shoulder injury that was speculated. Whatever it is, this is not Tom Brady. And for someone who reportedly has his options open for next year, this isn’t a ringing endorsement that he will ever be that guy again. He’ll find a reason to prove something and maybe he will - but father time is undefeated and the question is beginning to linger whether or not Brady is finally about to lose that fight.
3.) Come On, Donovan. For those that have listened to the Locked On Bucs podcast for any length of time, you’ll know I have defended Donovan Smith for a long, long time. Bucs fans have yelled for him to be cut since his rookie season, but I stuck with him and over the last two seasons that looked like the right move. Now? Not so much. Donovan Smith is actively hurting this team. Two weeks in a row, his penalties have taken touchdowns off the board. Lucky for him, it didn’t matter last week as the Bucs would score shortly after and beat the Saints. This time? Different story. His holding penalty took a 68-yard Mike Evans touchdown off the board that would have tied the game at 7-7 and then who knows how the rest of the game plays out. Instead, the Bucs faced 2nd-and-20, gained two yards on two plays, and punted. San Francisco would go up 14-0 on their ensuing possession and the rest, as they say, is history. Smith said he has some personal issues he’s dealing with - and obviously we hope that everyone is healthy and safe - but Smith is not playing to the level the Bucs need him to or even to a level that ensures he’s back next season.
4.) Officiating. I’m not going to sit here and say the referees were the reason the Bucs lost. They weren’t - but they sure as heck didn’t help. Brady was choked on one play and hit in the head on another, neither of which drawing the attention of the officials. Chris Godwin was clearly interfered with in the end zone on third down, which should have set up 1st-and-goal from the 1. Carlton Davis was called for defensive holding on a third down stop and was called for holding because the player he was guarding slipped and fell. Next play, Purdy threw a touchdown pass to Aiyuk. There was a blatant hold not called on Deebo Samuel’s opening score. Refs are not perfect. They are going to miss some calls and make some bad ones, but most of the time things even out. It didn’t this time. The Bucs had eight penalties for 62 yards - and a fourteen point swing between Evans’ touchdown that was called off and Aiyuk’s touchdown thanks to a phantom hold on Davis - while the 49ers had two penalties for fifteen yards. Just be better. You don’t have to be perfect, but my goodness be better.
5.) Todd Bowles’ Job Can Not Be Safe. I don’t care that his bestie stepped down from the sideline and into an advisory role. I don’t care that he still works for the franchise. Jason Licht can not allow Bruce Arians’ personal feelings about Todd Bowles interfere with what continues to be some seriously inept coaching. Same goes for Byron Leftwich. Both of these guys have thrown away what was supposed to be a promising season. Bowles’ inability to manage games or the clock, Leftwich calling the same stale plays in the same situations week after week have crippled an extremely talented roster to the point that they’re unrecognizable. A team with this many top-tier players should not be 6-7 and someone has to answer for it.
6.) Injuries Are Piling Up. Antoine Winfield Jr., Mike Edwards, and Sean Murphy-Bunting were all inactive in this one because of injuries. Tristan Wirfs is still out. Then, in the game, the Bucs lost Vita Vea, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Jame Dean, Rachaad White, Zyon McCollum, Nick Leverett all to injuries. Now, some of those players returned, but these aren’t exactly disposable pieces on this team. Fingers crossed that none of these were as serious as Deebo Samuel’s injury appeared to be - and if they are going to have any chance against the Cincinnati Bengals, better hope Winfield, Edwards, Murphy-Bunting, and Dean are all healthy by Sunday while Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd sit out to nurse injuries of their own.
Six Numbers To Consider
1 - Quarterbacks making their first career start to beat Tom Brady - Brock Purdy
195 - Yards Mike Evans needs to reach 1,000 for the ninth straight season
133 - Career starts by Evans, now seventh most in franchise history
5 - Quarterbacks in NFL history with 100+ passing touchdowns for two teams - Kurt Warner, Fran Tarkenton, Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, and Tom Brady
13,534 - Passing yards by Brady for the Bucs - tied with Josh Freeman for third most all-time.
40 - Receptions by Rachaad White this season, most of any rookie running backs
Six Best Tweets
There is a reality that exists, perhaps even this one, where the Carolina Panthers, now one game out of first place, host a playoff game— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) December 12, 2022
It's almost like the Bucs win a game and think 'THAT game will be the turning point!' but never actually turn the corner.— David Harrison (@DHarrison82) December 11, 2022
Purdy under pressure, hits McCaffrey on a dime. Touchdown. 21-0 Niners. They have as many touchdowns as the Bucs have first downs pic.twitter.com/GINAQk4k2A— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) December 11, 2022
Sooooo...— Jay Recher (@jayRecher) December 11, 2022
His long in the pregame was 51 and Succop just attempted a 55 YARDER???
Over and over and over and over again with these coaching decisions that make you scratch your head.
These mistakes are just inexcusable from a veteran coaching staff. #GoBucs
Leonard Fournette saved Tom Brady’s life pic.twitter.com/WBYCarXsLw— Barstool Sportsbook (@BSSportsbook) December 11, 2022
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Philadelphia Eagles - They just look unstoppable right now
2.) Buffalo Bills - Escaped a close one, but still the top seed in the AFC
3.) Kansas City Chiefs - Scary one for the Chiefs, but they come out on top
5.) Cincinnati Bengals - Tampa’s next opponent and Burrow finally defeats the Browns
18.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - This is not a playoff team, it’s a team that’s gonna end up in the playoffs
Six Final Words
At Least The Lightning Are Good
The video below will be available beginning at noon. You can also find it on all podcast apps