Having watched the Buccaneers for more than 25 years of my life, I find it difficult to recall a game as infuriating and frustrating as the one that happened yesterday. After jumping out to an incredible - and improbable - 17-0 lead, the Bucs allowed 34 consecutive points to the Bengals en route to their second straight loss to fall to 6-8.
Let’s Pick Six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) This One Is On Tom. Don’t say one stinkin’ word about the defense. After a botched fake punt that apparently everyone except former Bengal Gio Bernard knew was coming that set the Bengals up with first-and-ten at the Bucs’ 16, resulting in only a field goal, Tom Brady turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions. Four. Two interceptions, two lost fumbles, 17 unanswered points. The Bengals had four straight scoring drives that equaled 96 total yards. That’s not the defense’s fault. That is on Brady playing more like Josh Freeman - the quarterback he passed in this game to become the Bucs’ third all-time leading passer - than Tom Brady. You can’t ask your defense to stop an offense as talented and explosive as Cincinnati’s on a short field that many times. No one in the NFL could do it. Not the Bucs, not the 49ers, not the Cowboys - no one. And it all rests at the feet of Brady for not protecting the football. Inexcusable.
2.) Somehow, Someway. The Buccaneers still have the inside track to win the division. They’re sitting at 6-8 but have the Cardinals on Christmas, Panthers on New Year’s day, then finish with the Falcons. Those are all winnable games, believe it or not. The Cardinals may be starting their third string quarterback to compliment one of the NFL’s worst defenses then winning two division games means the Bucs can finish 9-8 and host a playoff game. It seems impossible right now given how the last two weeks have gone, but it’s more likely than you may believe.
3.) Reinforcements Are On The Way. Tristan Wirfs went from doubtful against the 49ers to questionable against the Bengals. It seems he’s on track to return next week against the Cards, which is a huge boost. On top of that, Ryan Jensen was snapping the ball to Brady in pre-game warmups and appears he may be close to returning. Now, I could be wrong - wouldn’t be the first or last time - but there didn’t appear to be a brace on under his sweatpants. It was a promising sign that he may be back in the next few weeks - which would help the protection for Brady and the running lanes for Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White. And the Bucs need all the help they can get right now.
4.) Speaking Of The Running Game. Was it just me or did it seem like Rachaad White completely disappeared in the second half? I was stunned when I went back through the play-by-play and saw that he actually was involved in four plays in the second half. Granted, the Bucs had five straight drives of five plays or less, so that plays a factor - but it seemed like it was all Fournette. White was running extremely well in the first half and appeared to be the forgotten man when the Bucs started to fall apart.
5.) Carlton Davis Stepped Up. He got away with a facemask on one play - granted, the officiating was pretty awful down the stretch so we’ll call that a wash - but he did an outstanding job keeping Ja’Marr Chase in check. An interception and four passes defensed is exactly why the Bucs paid him what they did. Hopefully the Bucs get Jamel Dean back next week - and find the money to keep him around long term - but if the Buccaneers can get this type of performance out of Davis next week, DeAndre Hopkins is going to have a quiet Christmas.
6.) How Does This Keep Happening? Mike Evans absolutely torched the Bengals in the first quarter, going for 71 yards. That’s the most yards he’s had in the first quarter of a game since 2020 when he had 76 against the Detroit Lions. At one point, Evans had 83 yards while the Bengals had 29 as a team. Then, he was forgotten. He had three second half targets, one drawing a defensive pass interference right before a Brady interception, but he was a mismatch all game long. No end zone targets, no quick passes to keep the Bucs in the game, nothing. He finished with the same 83 yards he had in the first half and that was it. Brady played a terrible game, but one would think that conventional wisdom would say to throw it to the guy the Bengals didn’t have an answer for outside of blatant holding or interference. Instead, it was the Russell Gage, Cameron Brate, and turnover show in the second half.
Six Numbers To Consider
2011 - The last time Brady had four turnovers in a game
112 - Yards needed by Evans to reach 1,000 for the season
1 - Loss in Brady’s career after leading by 17+ points at home
2 - Straight misses by Ryan Succop on field goals from 50+ yards
59 - Passes defensed by Davis since 2019 - second most in the NFL over that span
32 - Career touchdowns by Chris Godwin, tied with Cam Brate for fifth-most in team history
Six Best Tweets
I tried to warn everyone...
Bucs can't start feeling themselves. Need to keep their foot on the gas. Cincinnati is too talented and too explosive. They can get right back in this game in the blink of an eye pic.twitter.com/xQ3bPOxlqg— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) December 18, 2022
There was no false start on Joe Burrow here. It was instead called offsides on the Bucs pic.twitter.com/YUyDl8qvk7— Commissioner Cheah (@StevenCheah) December 19, 2022
#GoBucs fans are going to hate this, but still more right than wrong this week compared to last… Cards, Panthers, & Falcons all lesser opponents than SF or Cincy— (@ZacOnTheMic) December 19, 2022
More than anything don’t turn it over 5 times in 15 mins lol can NOT win that way. Tampa Bay can grow from here
To think we're really sitting here thankful the Panthers lost to the Steelers to protect the Bucs from destroying their own playoff stock is equal parts lunacy and ridiculous.— David Harrison (@DHarrison82) December 18, 2022
Video: Devin White says the defense can’t control turnovers from the rest of the team, but they have to step up regardless of the circumstances. pic.twitter.com/JQAjH1na3D— Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 19, 2022
Lavonte David has never held a day in his life idc idc— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) December 18, 2022
Six Christmas Movies To Cheer You Up
With the holiday approaching, let’s take a look at some movies that will turn your frown upside down and get you into the holiday spirit - just for the Bucs to play in prime time on Christmas Day and potentially ruin your night
6.) A Christmas Story Christmas - For those that don’t know, there is now a sequel to the movie we see for 24 straight hours every year. Ralphie, Schwartz, Flick - the whole gang is back for a surprisingly entertaining and fun movie on HBO Max. Just the right amount of callbacks and nostalgia for the original on top of a solid story. Worth the watch for sure.
5.) Elf - Always fun and funny when Will Farrell gets involved. Somehow, this one became a classic and is appointment viewing every year. I wonder how many “son of a nutcracker” comments Buddy the Elf would utter watching the Bucs...
4.) Scrooged - Painfully underrated (and my personal favorite) as curmudgeonly Bill Murray lives out “A Christmas Carol” and gets hit in the face with a toaster. Does not get any better than that.
3.) The Santa Clause - I can’t believe this movie is almost 30 years old. It was an instant classic about believing and has held up over time - to go along with two more movies and a surprisingly fun streaming series. Tim Allen will always be Santa Claus.
2.) A Christmas Story - Leg lamps, bunny suits, bullies, and shooting your eye out. It’s a must watch that will remind you of Christmases gone by where you got one thing you desperately wanted - or put a smile on your face thinking of when you came through and got your kid the thing they desperately wanted.
1.) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation - Few movies combine that nostalgic feeling with absolute hilarity. Picturing that perfect Christmas with all the family together versus the reality of how it will actually go, the unannounced relative showing up without an invitation, the stresses of the season, mixed with the incomparable joys throughout. And much like the movie, Bucs fans are all in this together and are going to have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny freaking Kaye - and much like Clark Griswold, after that loss we were all standing there asking “where's the Tylenol?”
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Philadelphia Eagles - Close one on the road, but still the class of the NFC
2.) Buffalo Bills - A wild game against a tough divisional opponent. Big test coming soon
3.) Cincinnati Bengals - Continue to stay red hot
4.) Kansas City Chiefs - Ooof. Barely escape Houston with a win
5.) Minnesota Vikings - I just...don’t understand this team. At all.
19.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - What a disappointing waste of a season