It wasn’t pretty at times and there are some lingering concerns stemming from Sunday night, but the Buccaneers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in convincing fashion, 19-3. While Tom Brady wasn’t asked to do much, it was the defense that put their stamp on things after Dallas’ opening drive.
It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally time to Pick Six. Let’s go!
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) The Offense Had Its Issues. While everyone was excited about all the weapons, the return of Tom Brady, the return of Chris Godwin, and the prime time spotlight there were a lot of points left out on the field Sunday. The Bucs got into the end zone just once and kicker Ryan Succop went 4/5 on his attempts. It seemed the Buccaneers could move the ball at will until they got inside the Cowboys’ 30-yard line for most of the night. While the offensive line isn’t what it was last season and could be facing more problems (more on that in a moment), Brady missed some guys in the red zone and the Bucs were leaning a little too heavily on Leonard Fournette in some situations. This caused drives to stall and the team to settle for field goals. When someone tells you the preseason doesn’t matter, remember this game. The starting Bucs offense had one drive together in preseason - which also resulted in a field goal - and it showed. There were some timing issues, some communication issues, and some protection issues. You expect those to get worked out, but they were already behind the eight ball when the game started.
2.) Well Hello There, Defense. The Buccaneers defense showed the kind of unit they are, harkening back to the 2020 playoff and Super Bowl run where they were a dominant force. The line was getting pressure on Dak Prescott, the secondary was getting pass breakups and a takeaway, and they forced the Cowboys to go 3-for-15 on third downs and 2-for-5 on fourth down. Dallas had just 3.8 yards per play and their top receiver CeeDee Lamb was held to two receptions for 29 yards on eleven targets. It was top to bottom, beginning to end dominance by the defensive side of the ball.
3.) Oh, The Injuries... So, while the Bucs were in the red zone, Donovan Smith was beat by Micah Parsons for his first sack of the game on third down and in the process, Smith injured his elbow. He left the game and did not return. Later in the half, as the Bucs were in a two-minute drill, Chris Godwin had a short catch and run then limped off the field with a hamstring injury and did not return. On that same play, Mike Evans got injured and came off the field though he returned in the second half. The Bucs were psyched to have Godwin on the field but now his status against the Saints is in question. On top of that, against a team in New Orleans that has a relentless pass rush, the potential loss of Donovan Smith is devastating. Josh Wells didn’t look terrible when he came in to replace Smith, but he wasn’t exactly a shining star either. Definitely a concern moving into next week.
4.) Julio. Julio Jones looked fantastic in his Buccaneers debut. Three receptions for 69 yards as well as two carries for 17 yards, Jones was involved and productive. His 48-yard reception late in the first half set up the fourth Ryan Succop field goal of the game and gave the Bucs a 12-3 lead just before halftime. You’d expect him to continue getting more involved in the gameplan - especially if Godwin misses any time - as he looked like vintage Julio throughout the night in Dallas. It’s also still very weird to tweet out “Brady complete to Julio” during these games. We’re living in a simulation...
5.) Lean On Lenny. When Todd Bowles took over, he stressed that he wanted to focus more on running the ball. When Leonard Fournette signed a three year extension, we all knew where that focus was going to go. Fournette was outstanding on Sunday night, finishing with 21 carries and a 6.0 yards per carry average. He didn’t reach the endzone, but he was certainly the focal point of the offense for the Bucs in this game. Control the tempo, control the clock, and control the game. Fournette is off to a great start in his quest to rush for 1,000 yards. Not to mention, he finished with a 76% snap-count - but he wasn’t on the field for the Bucs’ final twelve plays of the game when things were all wrapped up which dropped him from a 94% snap count.
6.) NFC Is There For The Taking. The NFC was bad on Sunday. The “top” teams - Green Bay, Dallas, San Francisco - all lost while off-season media darling Philadelphia and the recent sexy pick of New Orleans barely escaped with wins against some really bad teams. Rewind to Thursday Night and the Los Angeles Rams suffered an embarrassing home loss to the Buffalo Bills. Now, it’s week one and week one is always weird. Things will start to even back out as the Rams and Packers bounce back. As for the Cowboys, they may already be toast with Dak Prescott set to miss time with thumb surgery. There’s no reason the Bucs shouldn’t become the measuring stick of the conference.
Six Numbers To Consider
127 - Rushing yards by Fournette, his most as a Buc
76 - Career touchdown receptions by Mike Evans
904 - Completions by Tom Brady as a Buccaneer, sixth most in franchise history
5 - Games where Devin White has posted two or more sacks
279 - Points by Ryan Succop as a Buc, moving him to eighth in franchise history
83 - Takeaways by the Bucs defense since the arrival of Todd Bowles, third most in the NFL over that span
Six Best Tweets
Put. It. In. The. Louvre. pic.twitter.com/A6xP00dNUS— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 12, 2022
Michael Jordan x Tom Brady SNF promo pic.twitter.com/HBefmMRBaZ— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) September 12, 2022
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Buffalo Bills - Statement win to kick off the NFL season against the defending Super Bowl champs
2.) Kansas City Chiefs - No Tyreek, No Problem
3.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - With a defense like that, who needs touchdowns?
4.) Los Angeles Chargers - Loaded with talent on both sides of the ball
5.) Minnesota Vikings - Justin Jefferson is the best player in the league
6.) Denver Broncos - Haven’t played yet, but I don’t care. Their roster is outstanding and Russ about to cook