1) It was nice being 3-1. It was fun thinking "oh hey, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to be better than all the doubting naysayers who claimed we'd be bad without Tom Brady, that Baker Mayfield wasn't that good, that our defense had issues, that our run game was still non-existent." We were 3-1, everything seemed to work. Mayfield was steady, making few mistakes. The defense was forcing sacks and getting turnovers. Sure, it seemed problematic that Chris Godwin hadn't caught a TD yet, but we were 3-1 and atop the NFC South. Everything was rolling our way.
And then the three-game losing streak happened. And yeah, well.
2) It's turning out that while Mayfield is okay at QB, he's not outstanding enough to get the ball out to our targets consistently enough to sustain drives. It was only this game against the Buffalo Bills that he FINALLY threw a touchdown pass to Godwin. As for being in-sync with our Number One Guy Mike Evans, it hasn't happened enough in Red Zone situations during this losing streak to get our hopes up.
2a) As far as the running game goes, it's nowhere. Rachaad White just isn't getting to the outside off-tackle to be effective in space, and the Offensive Line may be good enough to pass-block but unable to open running lanes to give any of our RBs any chance to get downfield. Lacking a true powerback - like Fournette at his prime 2 years ago - we are back to being one-dimensional on offense, and our coaches haven't adjusted to that yet.
2b) The troubling thing is the dropoff in defensive numbers. Used to be getting 3-5 turnovers a game - which meant points - and now we're barely scratching out one per game. The sack count also dropped, especially with Vita Vea out with troubling injury woes. None of our LBs counted on to make those blitzes work - Shaq Barrett, Devin White, Joe Tyron Shoyinka - haven't been getting to opposing QBs as much, and that lack of consistent pressure is giving those QBs time to make third-and-long pass plays.
2c) The scouting on the team performance is pointing to serious coaching decision-making. Most troubling of all is the failure to stop those third-and-long situations for opposing offenses, who are converting over .500 of the time - worst defense in the NFL - because the scouts are pointing out the secondary goes into a soft Zone package after having played successful man coverage the previous two downs. A simple rule of coaching ought to be "Stick with what works" and if man coverage is working then for the love of GOD you play that until it's doesn't.
HC Todd Bowles is sitting on a hot seat and getting warmer, folks.
3) There's been previous observations that October tends to be a terrible month for the Bucs over the years. A hot September, we can have those: But then the schedule starts to tighten with more formidable opponents and the injuries start to expose our depth woes. If there's a way to have just a full bye month of October, the Bucs might do better.
3a) We also do terrible on Thursday night games. Just stop it, NFL. JUST STOP THE THURSDAY NIGHTERS. There's only ONE DAY you should have Thursday games - Turkey Day, in honor of the BUTT FUMBLE - and that's IT.
4) Stats of the game: Third-down efficiency. Buffalo went 7-for-13, over .500 success, and were able to maintain scoring drives. Tampa went 4-for-15, nowhere NEAR sustained drives and lack of reaching the red zones to score.
4a) PENALTIES WILL BE THE DEATH OF US. The whole game was a mess. Bucs were hit with 11 penalties, Bills got flagged for 9. I dunno what the record is for a game total between both teams, but 20 ought to be near the top effing five.
4b) Bucs played without giving up any turnovers, but snagged only one INT. That the Bucs converted that to a touchdown underscores the importance of making those turnovers: They give us great field position, and get us points.
5) Four weeks ago, it was looking like the Bucs were going to win the NFC South handily. Today, we're behind the surging Atlanta Falcons and struggling alongside New Orleans for whichever wild card we could win IF our team makes the right adjustments and start winning again. We were playing like a 12-5 team. Today, we'll be lucky to go 9-8. /headdesk
6) In professional football news: It's looking like not only Mahomes had the flu but the whole Chiefs lineup. How the hell did they lose to a bad Denver Broncos team...?
6a) OF COURSE the dreaded New Jersey Bowl between the JETS and the GINTS went into a low-scoring overtime at 10-all, with the Jets eke-ing out a winning field goal to be (checks the notes) 4-3 and making it look like they can reach the wild card with Zach Wilson (?!) at QB. The Football Gods are sadists.
6b) The Green Bay Packers are struggling, and it's a combination of QB Jordan Love not being ready for prime time after all, the team lacking offensive weapons, and lackluster coaching that looks to be going through the motions. The Bucs may be struggling, but at least we're not looking like we've given up already.
6c) Only the Vikings could win a big game against their hated rival Packers and still lose with their QB Kirk Cousins going out with a season-ending (and maybe career-ending) torn ACL.
6d) The Jacksonville Jaguars can be terrible on offense and still win a game.
6e) The Detroit Lions can be terrible on offense and still win a game.
6f) We are still on track for a Lions - Jags Super Bowl, and the breaking of the Seventh Seal should either team finally win a Super Bowl.
7) In professional college football news: Okay, for all the fun we had rooting for Colorado back in September, Coach Prime Time needs to remember to recruit for top-tier DEFENSIVE talent as well of offensive.
7a) Just like Oklahoma to lose like that to Kansas. OU always looks like they can be an unbeatable juggernaut going into the BCS polling, and then WHAMMO they lose badly and they drop out of consideration altogether.
7b) Right now, the Florida Gators just can't compete against a resurgent Georgia Bulldogs program. For all the years we were on top of the SEC East, now it's UGA's turn. At least we're both c-ck-blocking Tennessee (suck it Vols).
7c) The South Florida Bulls had a great bye week, but now they gotta play the toughest AAC opponent on the schedule vs. Memphis, and it's not going to be pretty. The best we can hope for is that the coaches used the off-week to improve that porous secondary.
8) In professional baseball news: So it came to this, an Arizona D-Backs vs. Texas Rangers World Series. Everybody is horrified that none of the top-tier teams - Orioles, Dodgers, even the Astros - failed to make it to the big one. But this is what the sports leagues should aspire to: letting the unheralded teams make it to the championship once in awhile to get the fanbase believing that any year can "be our year." It shouldn't have to be Yankees - Cardinals all the time, that gets boring and alienates the 28 other teams.
That said, I can't root for the Rangers because they curb-stomped the Rays this October. BOOOOO. At least Evan Longoria is on the D-Backs, that makes it easier to root for them so he can finally get a World Series ring. Lets GO Longo!!!
9) In professional hockey news: Just when it looks like the Bolts are winning with back-to-back shutouts behind the backup goalie Johannsen, they lose in OT to the Seattle Kraken and get stuck in the middle of the division. DAMMIT LIGHTNING, YOU'RE OUR LAST BEST HOPE FOR CHAMPA BAY.
9a) Damn. Boston Bruins are playing angry.
10) Next up: Bucs get the long week to prepare for playing at Houston against a Texans team that has historically given us fits, and against an up-and-coming rookie in CJ Stroud. Bucs have a worse history against rookie QBs in that we tend to make them look like Tom Freaking Brady in his prime. This could get ugly. (Prove me wrong, Bowles)