The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went on the national stage against America’s team and were weighed, measured and found a bit wanting against the Cowboys. Still, the Bucs are in the middle of the playoff chase with a good chance to give their fans a big time Christmas present.
What I Got Right
It was indeed a gruesome display by the offensive line on Sunday Night. Dallas isn’t known for its pass rush, but Tampa Bay surrendered 4 sacks, 9 QB hits and 6 tackles for loss as the Bucs were simply dominated along the line of scrimmage. While I banged on Gosder Cherilus (who apparently was injured in the fourth quarter – of course, that doesn’t explain his play the first three quarters or the previous week, but I digress), it wasn’t just the veteran RT who struggled. Ali Marpet, who possibly was trying to compensate for his weak right tackle, had an awful day, while Donovan Smith was his typical inconsistent self, decent to good one play while absolute dog crap the next.
It may have been the most unsteady pocket Jameis has seen all season and it contributed to one of his worst outings of the season. That’s not to excuse Jameis, who played poorly with the exception of a couple drives in the third quarter (amazingly, the Bucs actually got decent protection and what do you know, Jameis lit it up) or Doug Martin, who continues to struggle.
Still, when you are hit behind the line as many times as the Bucs running backs were on Sunday Night, it really is impossible to get things going.
If the Bucs are going to make the playoffs this year, the offensive line has to step it up.
What I Got Wrong
I don’t know how the hell I missed Kwon Alexander having the game of his life out there. An unbelieveable 21 tackles (11 solo), 2 TFLs and a forced fumble in the fourth quarter when his team desperately needed it (and subsequently wasted). Alexander was channeling Hardy Nickerson on Sunday night, but it was overshadowed by the Bucs’ struggles on offense and the Cowboys offensive line’s dominance of Tampa Bay’s front four.
Alexander is a Pro Bowl alternate but he deserves to be voted into the game over Carolina’s Luke Kuechly (although Cowboys’ MLB Sean Lee has an argument as well). He truly has been one of the best players on defense and continues to make the number cruncher and slide ruler crowd look like a bunch of buffoons.
It’s Sunday Night Football. You have the best play-by-play man in the business in Al Michaels, you have Chris Collinsworth. You have Michelle Tafoya, and Bob Costas anchoring a pre-game show while Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy and Buc-hater Rodney Harrison are in the studio.
It doesn’t get much bigger or better. Sunday Night Football is the top rated program in America for a reason and its not just because Carrie Underwood is unbelievably smokin’ hot.
What the Buc Moment of the Game
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) December 19, 2016
Really can’t be anything other than Zeke Elliot running through the Bucs defense and then jumping into the Salvation Army bucket, can it?
Were the Bucs as Bad as They Looked?
It was a frightening reminder that while the Bucs are certainly a very improved ballclub, they are still flawed. The quarterback had flashbacks to his month of September where he cost his team more games than he helped them win while the Bucs struggled on both lines of scrimmage.
With all that said, Tampa Bay was on the road against the best team in the NFC (maybe the NFL) and had the football in the final minutes with a chance to win. That’s all you could really ask for.
The Cowboys have made a lot of teams look pedestrian this year, that’s why they are 12-2.
Around the Dirty South
The list of patsies for the Falcons is over – now it’s division football. The Panthers delivered the Bucs a solid by stunning Washington while the Saints got their offense back on track against the formerly good Cardinals.
Bucs’ Clinching Scenarios
Tampa Bay clinches a playoff berth with:
- TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS loss OR
- TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS tie + TB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DET
Who to Root For This Week and Why
This is directly from my DLT’s Wild and Crazy NFC Playoff Scenarios article on BucsNation which breaks down every aspect of the playoff picture for Tampa Bay. Be sure to take a look!
Bucs over the Saints – Obviously. But this is the big one, folks. If the Bucs want to make the playoffs this year – they MUST win this game or their chances go to miniscule.
Dallas over Detroit – The Bucs desperately need this one too, to set up the play-in game scenario for Detroit and Green Bay.
Minnesota over Green Bay – See the Bucs’ clinching scenario.
Chicago over Washington – See the Bucs’ clinching scenario.
Carolina over Atlanta – Opens the door for the Bucs to win the NFC South.
Seattle over Arizona – Helps the Bucs strength of victory.
San Francisco over Los Angeles – Helps the Bucs strength of victory
Cincinnati over Houston – Hurts Green Bay’s strength of victory.
Tennessee over Jacksonville – Hurts Green Bay’s strength of victory
Kansas City over Denver – Helps the Bucs strength of victory
San Diego over Cleveland – Helps the Bucs strength of victory.
The Bucs head to New Orleans for perhaps the biggest game in a decade for Tampa Bay. Win and Tampa Bay has a great shot at heading to the post season for the first time since 2007. Lose and the Bucs are getting out their slide rulers trying to figure how they can get in the back door.
This is the game the Bucs must win…have to win. A loss would be devastating. BEAT THE SAINTS, Bucs.