It’s real now, folks. The Buccaneers find themselves smack dab in the middle of the NFC playoff chase, heading down the December stretch after rallying past a pesky San Diego Chargers team on the road.
Whether the Bucs can do it or not, at least we’re not talking draft, amiright?
What I Got Right
Tampa Bay’s defense did do some struggling with the high powered San Diego offense in the first half. Melvin Gordon was a manbeast, as Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and other struggled to bring down the powerful Chargers running back. Surprisingly, San Diego decided against going down the field on Tampa Bay early in the game, opting instead for a number of passes in the 10-20 yard range, screen passes and checkdowns.
Part of that was due to the Bucs ever improving coverage by the secondary and the pressure applied by the front four, but it also seemed to be schemed that way as it was highly effective in getting San Diego down the field on their two scoring drives in the first half.
The Chargers weren’t quite as effective in the second half, as the Bucs locked down the short-to-medium routes and clamped down on Gordon. That allowed Rivers to hit a long touchdown bomb in the third quarter to retake the lead and he narrowly missed a second long touchdown throw when Travis Benjamin choked on the catch.
All in all though, the Bucs defense held their own against a top tier offense, limiting San Diego to their second lowest output of the season (only the Broncos held the Chargers under 20 this season, and that was at 19 points).
What I Got Wrong
I blamed Doug Martin for the lack of the running game when really, the Bucs offensive line did a really crappy job in run blocking. There were several times throughout the ballgame where the Chargers were able to get guys unblocked into the backfield to hit Martin as he was getting the football.
Certainly, the Chargers keyed on the run with Doug in the game, but it also happened with Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers as well, so it wasn’t just Doug.
The Bucs aren’t facing the best defenses in the league down the stretch, so the Tampa Bay offense will need to continue to win how they are winning, control the clock, get the running game going and let Jameis and Mike make plays.
Ugh, David Diehl. We’ve gotten him multiple times this season and he was ill-prepared as ever. No real insight or nuggets of information in this one. We can only hope that with the Bucs’ profile raising this is the last we’ll see of Diehl.
Sam Rosen did the play-by-play. I’ve got no issues with Rosen. Sometimes he loses the player numbers but hell, Mean Gene Deckerhoff does it on the regular and he watches this team every week.
What the Buc Moment of the Game
While Lavonte’s pick six was a strong candidate for this week’s award, the truth is the defense gave it right back on the ensuing drive. Jameis Winston, without Adam Humphries or Cecil Shorts, with Doug Martin on the sidelines with an apparent injury and the Chargers doing everything they could to eliminate Mike Evans, still managed to drive the Bucs down the field in the fourth quarter to retake the lead, hitting Cameron Brate in the end zone. By the way – other site that shall not be named here but is trying to copy our podcasting format – I’ve been doing “Make America Brate Again” since the pre-season, so come up with your own slogan.
🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌#JameisWinston to #CameronBrate!
RT to give them your #ProBowlVote https://t.co/RwhQx2Uzib
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) December 5, 2016
Were the Bucs as Good as They Looked?
Well, it wasn’t the Bucs A game, but that was understandable considering the amazing output of effort they had to deliver to beat one of the best teams in the NFC, Seattle, then travelling cross country to play a tough Chargers team. It took them a while to get their stuff together but when they finally did, they looked like the Bucs we’ve been seeing the last month of the season.
Tampa Bay finished the third quarter of the season 4-0, including victories on the road in Kansas City and San Diego. Who the heck would have believed that after the Falcons shibacle?
Around the Dirty South
Atlanta one-upped the Saints blowing a game on a game-tying extra-point by gaining the lead, going for two and having the league’s first ever pick-two to lose the lead and decide a football game. That’s some serious chokage their, ATL. The Saints were back to being the Saints against the Lions and the Panthers were the unfortunate recipients of the Seahawks’ rage of getting their asses handed to them at Ray Jay. Sorry, not sorry, Carolina.
Who to Root For this Week and Why
From my Playoff Breakdown article on BucsNation, I give you this week’s who to root for. For a complete and full breakdown of all the Bucs’ playoff possibilities, check out DLT’s Wild and Crazy NFC Playoff Scenarios.
Bucs over the Saints – Obviously. The Bucs would essentially end the Saints.
Eagles over Washington – The Eagles aren’t much of a threat to the Bucs right now due to their terrible conference record. They would need to win out and hope the Bucs lose twice. Another loss for Washington would give the Bucs a margin for error.
Dolphins over Cardinals – Puts the Cards out of their misery.
Jaguars over the Vikings – Yes, unlikely but it would basically end Minnesota’s hopes.
Lions over the Bears – Let’s keep the Lions out of striking distance for Green Bay.
Rams over the Falcons – Also unlikely, but every once in awhile Jeff Fisher’s team pulls off a shocker.
Seahawks over the Packers – Again, let’s keep the Lions out of striking distance for Green Bay.
Cowboys over the Giants – Keeping Dallas fat and happy while opening the Giants up as another option for Tampa Bay in the wild card round. Dallas would also wrap up the NFC East with a win here.
It’s pee pee pants city, folks, as the Bucs head down the home stretch. Can they do it? Well, this week’s game against the Saints will be a good indicator. I don’t have to mention (but I will) that last year’s collapse down the stretch began with the Bucs delivering a stinker against New Orleans at Ray Jay.
Have they learned anything? The Bucs should beat the Saints. The only way it doesn’t happen is if the Bucs beat themselves. Don’t beat yourselves, Bucs.
Photo courtesy of Buccaneers.com