Observations of the "We May Be Better Than the Experts Thought" Bucs/Bears 9/17/23 Beatdown

1) Remember the preseason talk about how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to struggle, that nobody knew how Baker Mayfield would play, how the offensive line was patchwork moving Tristan Wirfs from Right to Left Tackle, how losing C Ryan Jensen was going to hurt, how we didn't know how the Bucs defense was going to repair its struggling blitzing and turnover ways?

I saw season predictions ranging from 7-10 downturn to a 3-14 collapse. I saw people predicting we were going to tank for Caleb Williams (the hot QB name of 2023-24). I saw the best minds of our football media elites go mad with the idea that a post-Tom Brady Bucs team was gonna suck.

1a) To them I say: Up Yours. FIRE THE CANNONS.

1b) The Bucs team winning at home today - against a Chicago Bears team some experts were hyping up for wild card hopes - put the Bucs at 2-0 and in a decent position to play towards a winning season, as the early exposure of how some of the hyped teams are falling quickly to injury - or proving they shouldn't have been all that in the first place.

We had steady offensive plays topped by impressive yardage totals. We had some signs of a respectable rushing attack. And while the Bears offense wasn't exactly Top Ten coming into this year, the Bucs defense stepped up and abused Chicago's O-line and QB without mercy.

The Bucs may not be wowing them back in the New York broadcast stages the way the 49ers and Cowboys are, but the Bucs have proven in just two games they are a balanced team and a force to be reckoned with as this season progresses.

2) Player of the Game: OLB Shaq Barrett had a rough time of it since 2022, when he fell to a season-ending injury and then had to cope with the death of his 2-year-old daughter drowning this April. As one of the key elements of the defense's blitz-happy attacks, his removal from the lineup hurt us back then. Bringing him back fully healthy - and motivated to honor his family the only way he knows how - is going to be a key part of the Bucs upswing. And he proved it today with racking up a sack, a couple of tackles-for-loss, and a jaw-dropping Interception at the line - one-handed no less - late in the game to put the Bucs up to win.

2a) Really close behind was WR Mike Evans, once again proving that when you get the ball to Evans good things happen. He racked up incredible receiving numbers: six catches for 171 yards, two of them massive YAC runs, and a touchdown that got us up 20-10 late in the Third Quarter. Even when opposing teams know he's the best offensive player on the field, they can't stop him. PAY THE MAN.

2b) Baker Mayfield builds on the nice Week One performance with a more impressive game this week, going 26/34 for 317 yards. He only had the one TD throw to Evans but he was finding receivers all day and with a decent mix of midrange to deep bomb throws. He scrambled a few times for first downs with the awareness you want out of a veteran leader, and NO turnovers. If he plays like this - more Brad Johnson than Jameis Winston - we are going to the NFC Championship, krewe.

2c) Our entire defensive front feasted on a weak Bears offensive line and on QB Justin Fields, who's still shaky with lack of experience out there. Joe Tyron-Shoyinka snagged two sacks today, finally playing to the level we drafted him for. Logan Hall teamed up with Vita Vea to share a sack, and then Vea got his own late in the game to help bury Fields. Oh, and Super Bowl hero Cam Gill racked up a sack of his own. More on this later.

2d) Where the Bears OL suffered, the Bucs OL shined. Other than some costly penalties (mutter grumble), the pirate offensive line did NOT give up a sack today and barely allowed any pressure on Mayfield. We need to see that level of play - minus the holdings and false starts (mutter grumble) - next week vs. the Eagles.

2e) Rachaad White had one of his better running back days, getting 73 yards on 17 carries and the early TD to put the Bucs ahead. Ending with a 4.3 yards per carry, not too shabby. It'd be nice to see a 100-yard game though... some day...

2f) You don't normally want to list your PUNTER as a Player of the Game, but Jake Camarda has been a beast for the Bucs since his rookie year. He boomed the third-longest punt in team history (he owns the second-longest already) early for a touchback and then followed up with two key punts inside the Bears 20 to pin them back. Field position matters in football, and Camarda is a difference maker. But he also recovered a blocked field goal that the Bears could have scooped up for a return score, so that was his awareness and toughness playing through. Damn. He should be All-Pro.

3) What we are seeing overall is a balanced team: Not that explosive on offense like the Dolphins but reliable enough to put points on the board; Not that dominant on defense like the Cowboys but sturdy enough to give even good offenses enough hiccups and scares to build up sacks and turnovers. The only serious question marks right now are whether our rushing game will improve, how our tight ends are working into the passing game, and if our secondary can survive the injuries that are already piling up.

The Bucs may not be a 13-4 team this season but it's sure as hell not 4-13. We can - given the way the season is playing out - legitimately contend for the South division.

4) Statistics of the Game: Quarterback pressures on the Bears QB Fields. The Bucs defense got up to 10 pressures/hits on Fields not including the six sacks. Fields was under pressure almost the entire game, and rarely found any time to get the ball to his receivers (DJ Moore being the only good target he had all day). Head Coach Bowles wants his defense to bring that pressure, and it's looking like he's gotten the unit he knows can get the job done.

4a) PENALTIES WILL BE THE DEATH OF US. And yes, early on various OL miscues - false starts and holdings - killed enough of our offensive drives to keep the score down. Grrr. We ended the day with seven penalties. The only good news is that the penalties never contributed to a Bears first down.

4b) The Bucs offense out-performed in nearly every metric (save one). We led in total rushing yards 120 - 67. We led in passing 317 - 169. We had more third down conversions 8 of 15 over the Bears 6 of 13. We sustained more drives and ate up the clock with 35 minutes.

4c) The only stat we didn't dominate was the Red Zone offense. We went 1 for 4 inside the Red Zone, which is why the score for much of the game was closer than it should have been (13-10 at the half instead of 16-10, and 20-17 late in the Fourth before Shaq's game-winning Pick-6). Bucs HAVE to get more touchdowns when we go against tougher teams we're facing like the EAGLES NEXT WEEK.

4d) Fourth-down efficiency: one for one. The Gods favor those who are bold and go for it.

5) In other NFL news, when I posted last week we had not yet witnessed the opening Monday Night game between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills, with the grand opening of Aaron Rodgers' career as a Jet QB.




What the hell happened?

What turned into a nightmare game for the Jets - losing Aaron for the year - switched into a nightmare for the Bills when Josh Allen gave one of his worst performances turning over ungodly interceptions to ex-Buc Jordan Whitehead (a fan fave) and a miralce punt return in OVERTIME for the Jets to pull off an upset.

In the meantime, losing Rodgers undercuts any hope the Jets have of making the playoffs. Today's game against an unstoppable force in the Dallas Cowboys proves Zach Wilson just doesn't have the weapons or experience to win enough games.

5a) DAMMIT GREEN BAY YOU HAD ONE JOB. They lose in the Fourth Quarter.. to the FALCONS?!?! Atlanta is tying us for the South lead?! Great. We're gonna have to beat Atlanta in a couple weeks to put them in their place.

5b) Note to self: Never start a Jaguars receiver on your fantasy squad. I could have started Gabe Davis for the Bills but NOOOOoooooo I started Zay Jones and I had to eat it today. Thank GOD I have Evans.

5c) For the first half of the Giants - Cardinals game, the New Jersey Giants were hopeless as a team. Then something happened at halftime where the Giants figured it out and eked out a last-minute win (either that or Arizona is seriously tanking for Caleb Williams).

5d) Cincinnati Bengals are 0-2 and signs of QB Joe Burrow walking with a wounded leg. It's a little too early to panic but um it's okay Cincy if you wanna panic.

5e) Who told Seattle Seahawks to rain on the Lions' parade today? That overtime win was gutsy.

5f) The Colts won big today but rookie QB Richardson went out on concussion protocols. He could be out another week. That's still a serious problem and the league HAS to figure out a better helmet design to prevent these things.

5g) Who told the Washington team to be any good? They're supposed to be terrible on offense and yet here they are 2-0 on the season scoring points and everything.

5h) For the Monday night double-header I am hoping for few injuries and yet a massive slapdown of the Browns and a massive humiliation for the Saints. (Realizes New Orleans is playing the rebuilding Carolina Panthers) Oh damn.

6) In professional college football news: You cannot beat the U of Colorado you can only hope to contain them. Trash-talking on Deion Sanders is not going to work.

6a) While the South Florida Bulls could not hope to win against a major program like Alabama, they did the next best thing: The Bulls played the Crimson Tide tough, tied them at the half, and forced that team to work every inch for a 17-3 win. The end result was a public humiliation of Nick Saban and an actual slidedown in the college polls in spite of the W. The Tide is out of the Top 10 for the first time since 2015.

6b) Tennessee was hoping to get a weak Florida team in the swamp, but the Gators are prideful of their home field advantage (we rarely lose there anymore) and the Vols had no answer for the running game. Go GATORS.




7) In professional baseball news, The Tampa Bay Rays were in Baltimore this weekend to try and win the 4-game visit to reclaim the top of the AL East division, and the first two wins got us there... until we lost the last two and slid back to second place behind the damnable O's with a 2-game lead. Orioles have one more win than we do but they own us head-to-head and have one game short (so far) and so they've got the lead in this pennant race. This is a nail-biter. The Rays NEED to win out and hope Baltimore slides so we can claim the division AND the home-field advantage going into this postseason. Damn it.

7a) The good news is that the Rays ARE going into this postseason. It's official, with Texas' losses this weekend they cannot overcome the wild-card status for either Baltimore or Tampa Bay. They can still make a wild card but the Rangers are now fighting with the Mariners and the Blue Jays for the FIFTH place slot.

7b) Both the Yankees and the Red Sox are treating this last week of baseball as season ending. They know they're out of the running and are starting to fire front office people. Ahhhhhhh, it feels so good to watch the overpriced money teams suffer.

7c) Atlanta and Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched their divisions. We are looking at an Orioles/Rays vs Braves/Dodgers World Series at this rate. WE CAN DO THIS.

7d) There is no greater tragedy in baseball right now than the Anaheim Angels (you're NOT L.A. guys) packing it up with their star players Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani likely heading to free agency/trade bait. The sad thing is that those two players could well go to deep pocket teams like Yankees or Dodgers next season instead of mid-market teams that NEED their talent levels, and those deep pocket teams will struggle to utilize them properly and they suffer more. It's the pity of the MLB system that doesn't have a strong revenue sharing system and salary cap.

8) In professional hockey news, it's preseason and the Tampa Bay Lightning are READY TO PLAY FOR THE STANLEY CUP AGAIN. No injuries, baby, let's stay healthy and make the postseason one more time. Daddy needs another boat parade.

9) In professional Pokemon GO news, I need to get a picture of a Landorus. Can y'all spawn one for me?


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