Any football fan knows, whether it’s with some friends at school, among coworkers and rivals beside the cliché ‘water cooler,’ or turning on your favorite sports talk show to see the cast bicker over what they just witnessed less than 24 hours prior— Monday mornings are usually for bragging rights, armchair quarterbacks, and “Did you see when?!” This Monday morning was for anxiety and enthusiasm, because this week Monday Night Football featured the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tuesday morning, fans—
Will be excited about— Tampa Bay’s defense, with a few significant injuries, hung in (for a while).
The Buccaneers’ defense came into Monday’s game with quite a few key players banged up. While some of Tampa’s hampered defenders did suit up, the Buccaneers also lost Jamel Dean and Devin White (who came into the game nursing an injury). Both White and Dean, to their credit, bounced in and out of the lineup, but defending an offense like the Philadelphia Eagles’ is difficult enough when you don’t need to deal with your defense playing at half-mast. On Monday night, the Buccaneers’ defensive unit bent, until it broke. With an abysmal level of support from the team’s offense, the Bucs kept the Eagles at bay for a whole half of football. Once the Eagles realized they only needed to run the ball to win, the rain fell and so did Tampa’s chances at victory. Tampa Bay’s defense broke in the second half, they finished with two turnovers but also allowed over 450 total yards of offense.
Are going to be sad to bring up— Turnovers.
The Buccaneers’ offense had avoided putting the ball on the ground or in the hands of the other team, over the first two weeks. Week three against Philadelphia, turnovers were plentiful. Tampa left the first half with two turnovers and a Baker Mayfield fumble which could have been a third. A Major facet in the 2-0 start for the Buccaneers was their staggering turnover differential. Tampa’s defense did its best to keep the pace, stealing the ball back for their offense on Devin White and Dee Delaney interceptions. Turnover differential has always been one of the most defining factors in determining wins and losses and tonight is the first game of 2023 where the Buccaneers did not come away positive in the turnover margin.
The Buccaneers have a star wide receiver. Against the Eagles, he did not play like one. Catching the ball in the rain is not ideal. Of course, conditions like tonight’s can present challenges still, star players need to elevate and perform like star players regardless. Mike Evans is a top-three member of Tampa’s roster. Arguably, Evans is a top-three Buccaneer historically. When a team is facing an opponent that is markedly better, their best players need to step up and play to that level in order to ensure that the team has a chance. Mike Evans’ career is full of some of the highest highs and Evans will always be a fan favorite, but tonight Mike Evans did not play like Mike Evans and the Buccaneers offense suffered because of it. Evans finished with five catches, 60 yards, a score and one sensational snag, but it was far too little and far too late.
Tampa’s undefeated season.
The Buccaneers weren’t supposed to go undefeated on the season, but nobody likes their team taking its first loss. The Bucs exceeded most expectations by just reaching the 2-0 mark, but the unbeaten season will stop there. Tampa is 2-1, heading into a crucial week four matchup.
Won’t be able to let it go— Next week the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on their division rival for first place in the NFC South.
The Buccaneers have played cumulatively well through their first three games. The result of their efforts is the reward of being right in the mix for the early-season division crown through the first three games. Week four’s matchup, against the New Orleans Saints, is a chance for Tampa to take an early lead in the race for the NFC South division title. Just shy of the quarter-season mark, Tampa Bay could control the division so many preseason prognosticators predicted they’d lose.
When the history of New Orleans versus Tampa Bay gets taken into account this game represents even more because it’s a chance for the Buccaneers, led by a new quarterback, to begin a new culture. The ball is in Tampa Bay’s court. There is no more Sean Payton and there is no more Drew Brees. Tom Brady is retired, Bruce Arians is no longer on the sidelines. The Buccaneers have every chance to go into New Orleans, beat the Saints, in the dome, and add a new chapter to a mostly one-sided rivalry by setting a different precedent.
The Tampa Bay Bucs were supposed to lose against the Eagles and they did. Still, one loss does not need to define a season. The Buccaneers have a chance to reset their season’s momentum next week when they head to New Orleans. The story of the 2023 Buccaneers still has many pages left to be written.