Bucs Blog! 2018 Season, Week 7.

So, the Bucs lost agai……..wait. SAY WHAT???

Bucs 26 – Browns 23

That’s right! My Pewter Pirates snuck in a win before a home crowd in sunny Tampa on Sunday. Yeah, I’m lagging a bit with these the last couple of weeks. Blame it on the book deadline, which is looming as I write this.

It was one of those teeter-totter type games plagued by weirdness from different angles, from the Browns scoring a safety in the first quarter after stuffing the Bucs offense to a missed extra point and field goal by Tampa kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Throw in a couple of interceptions thrown by Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and him getting sacked four times, and a couple of fumbles for flavor, and you start to wonder why the team didn’t just chuck the whole thing and adjourn to Hooters to watch the late games.

There were a few bright spots, though. Winston still threw for over 350 yards, and the Tampa rushing attack netted 115 yards and two running touchdowns. The defense held Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield to 186 passing yards (but two TDs) and indeed helped keep the game close, providing Winston and the offense opportunities to grab the win. Even special teams stepped up, recovering a fumble during a critical punt in overtime which set up the Bucs offense to seal the deal. The whole thing was capped by Catanzaro, who after his earlier misses was able to redeem himself with a 59-yard field goal (the longest in overtime) to give Tampa the win.

Yeah, it was sloppy, but I’ll take it.

The win brings the Bucs to 3-3 on the year, snapping a 3-game losing streak. They’re still two games behind New Orleans in the NFC South and just one behind Carolina. Both teams won on Sunday, as did Atlanta on Monday night, so things remain as knotted as ever in the division. Yep. Gonna be a wild ride.

Next up for Tampa? A road game to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals, who despite being first in their division are still stinging after getting thumped by the Chiefs on Sunday. They’ll be looking to get back on track with a home crowd to cheer them on, so this could be a fun one.

Bucs life, yo.

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Bucs Blog! 2018 Season, Week 6.

So, the bye week didn’t seem to do much good, huh?

Falcons 34 – Bucs 29

Sure, this is a day or so late, but what’s the diff? It’s not like they snuck back and won when I wasn’t looking, amirite?

Anyway….

The first start of the year for quarterback Jameis Winston following his 3-game suspension to start the season and an extra week to prepare for a game against a struggling division rival. An opportunity to arrest a 2-game skid and maybe shore up their standing in said division. This meal had all the ingredients to be pretty tasty.

Somebody forgot to heat the oven.

The recipe probably didn’t call for Atlanta to score touchdowns on their first three possessions, and likely didn’t factor in Tampa missing the extra point following their only score of the first quarter. Though Winston threw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns on the day, he also got picked twice, and the offensive line let the Falcons D get to him for two sacks.

Speaking of defense, the Bucs definitely have a problem on this side of the ball. They’ve given up 30 or more points in four of the first five games this season. That coupled with the offense’s inconsistency spells trouble. They were able to contain Atlanta’s run game for the most part, but with Falcons QB Matt Ryan throwing the ball all over the place it ended up being a largely unappreciated endeavor.

And despite everything, you have to hand it to Winston, who almost…almost….engineered a last-second victory. It all came down to the final play of the game, with the Bucs resorting to a few desperate laterals that…you know…never work 99.99999999999% of the time and falling a mere two yards short of the go-ahead score as time expired. It’s the very definition of a heartbreaking loss.

The loss, Tampa’s third in a row, drops them to 2-3 on the year and hanging by their fingernails to keep from falling into the NFC South Division basement. That spot’s occupied by the Falcons, who improved to 2-4. Despite being on their bye week, New Orleans holds onto the top spot at 4-1, and Carolina lost so they’re now at 3-2. Yep, that’s the NFC South: pretty tight, standings-wise. If they hold true to form, everybody in that division will be fighting it out tooth and nail for the rest of the season.

Next up for the Bucs? They host the sputtering Cleveland Browns, and they’ll do it with a new defensive coordinator: linebackers coach Mark Duffner, who gets the promotion following Mike Smith being fired following Sunday’s loss. Duffner’s been a DC before, having performed those duties for the Cincinnati Bengals. Of course, it’s been a while (2002), so here’s hoping he doesn’t waste too much time shaking off the rust before this weekend’s game.

Bucs life, yo.

Bucs Blog! 2018 Season, Week 4.

Well, that could’ve gone better.

Bears 48 – Bucs 10

One of the concerns I mentioned back at Week 1 was Tampa’s pass defense. Despite putting up impressive scores in their first two games, the Bucs still let opposing quarterbacks throw seemingly at will, racking up yards and points. Something had to give, and as it happened it was Tampa’s offense.

Granted, longtime Tampa fans know that “The Bucs have an awesome offense!” is not something typically uttered…like…ever. Whenever people have spoken in glowing terms about Tampa the 40+ years of the team’s existence usually revolves around its defense. From Lee Roy Selmon and the “Orange Crush” of the 1970s the days of Warren Sapp and the unit which ultimately helped push the Bucs to their first-ever Super Bowl win in 2002, defense has often been one of the team’s strengths.

Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, not so much, today.

Mitchell Trubisky did a fine job marching the Chicago Bears offense up and down Soldier Field today, collecting 38 points just in the first half. Trubisky would end up throwing six touchdowns and 350+ yards while completing 19 of 26 passes and – of equal importance – no interceptions. The Bears running attack was solid if not earthshattering, pulling down 130+ yards on 31 rushing attempts spread across six ball carriers (including Trubisky, who scampered for a couple).

Meanwhile, the Bucs had a bit of day. It’s obvious the Bears watched game film from Tampa’s Monday night game against the Steelers, dialing in on the best ways to harass Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bears D harassed and confounded Fitz all through the first half, sacking him twice and picking him off once. Fitz completed 9 of 18 passes for 126 yards but no scores before halftime, after which Bucs head coach decided it was time to reinsert Jameis Winston into the mix.

Winston’s return to the Tampa offense wasn’t much to write home about, as he also was sacked twice and threw two interceptions on his way to completing 16 of 20 passes for 145 yards and a TD pass. Of course, by the time the third quarter started, the game was already well out of reach so I don’t know that I’d call this a fair test of Winston’s capabilities coming off his 3-game suspension.

Indeed, it’s certainly not fair to place everything on either quarterback’s shoulders, as there’s plenty of woe to spread around. The Bucs running attack? Abysmal. Defense? Well, you saw the score, and the yardage, and so on. Yeah, Coach Koetter’s got some stuff to work on over the next couple of weeks.

The loss drops Tampa to 2-2 and third place in the NFC South behind division rivals New Orleans, who’s on a 3-game winning streak after losing the season opener to Tampa, and the Carolina Panthers, who didn’t have to do anything today as they’re on their bye week.  A last-minute touchdown throw helped Cincinnati win against Atlanta, dropping the Falcons to 1-3.

Next up? The Bucs are on their own bye during Week 5, and back in action two weeks from today against the aforementioned Falcons. That’ll be a crucial division game that Tampa should really consider winning. Just sayin’.

Bucs life, yo.

Bucs Blog! 2018 Season, Week 3.

Yeah. That was the reality check we were expecting and probably needed.

Steelers 30 – Bucs 27

At home on a Monday night before a pumped-up crowd and a national audience, with everyone getting to watch (a truncated portion of) former Tampa coach and generally awesome human being Tony Dungy’s induction into the Bucs’ “Ring of Honor” at Raymond James Stadium, and the team off to its best start in eight years? A backup quarterback who seemed to have tapped into something supernatural as he led the team to a pair of impressive wins while racking up no shortage of stats and accoladed for himself?

Well, if you’re a longtime Bucs fan like I’ve been, literally since the day the team’s creation was announced way back when, then you likely have seen some variation of this story before, and you went into last night’s contest with fingers crossed and managed expectations.

First off, new rule: NO MORE RING OF HONOR INDUCTIONS WHEN THE BUCS ARE ON NATIONAL TV. I mean, sheesh…it seems like every time this happens — Every. Time. — the team finds a way to pop the clutch. It’s a curse, I’m tellin’ ya.

All right, all right. Let’s get on with the game itself, which is really the tale of two teams. In the first half, there was the uncertain, indecisive, and just plain saddled-with-bad-luck Buccaneers, unable to stop the Steelers offense or hold their pass rush off their quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started the season on fire during the first two games, had a very rough first half, throwing three interceptions on successful passing attempts, including one deep in Tampa territory that allowed the Steelers to score a defensive touchdown.

Two quarters into the game, Pittsburgh was up 30-10 and it was looking like a route. Given the NFL’s recent propensity for changing rules in what many critics call a “softening of the game,” I was half-expecting someone to yell “Mercy!” at the half so everybody could go home.

Good thing they didn’t, as that’s when things started to get exciting.

The Bucs did a pretty good impression of a roaring comeback in the second half, holding the Steelers scoreless and stuffing their run attack while Fitz and the Tampa offense began chipping away at Pittsburgh’s lead. A couple of heart-breaking plays dangled a full-on come-from-behind victory in front of all our faces. One was an incredible punt return by wide receiver DeSean Jackson which was nullified by a penalty back upfield. Later, a pass play from Fitzpatrick to Chris Godwin, who at first looked as though he’d managed to avoid being touched by any Steelers defenders going to the ground to make the catch, resulted in Godwin getting up and scampering untouched to the end zone for a wacky yet still legal score. But, replay showed his foot tapped the shoulder of a Pittsburgh player. Bummer.

FYI? I was totally cheering and then crying at the TV during both of those plays.

Against some seriously stacked odds, Fitz and the Bucs managed to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to just 3 points, with more than 5 minutes left in the game. The recipe for a comeback was almost complete. However, despite their inability to score during the second half, the Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense still managed to keep drives alive and – more importantly – keep the Tampa defense on the field and the clock running in their favor. A couple of late first downs just before the 2-minute warning were all Pittsburgh needed to take a knee and run out the clock. Game over.

Though he had a rough – and I mean rough – first half, Ryan Fitzpatrick can hold his head up high.30 completions on 50 passing attempts for over 400 yards and three touchdowns help to ease the sting of those three interceptions. He helped the Bucs get off to a great start on this still fresh-smelling new season, and dug deep to damn-near pull off a miracle at the end last night. Not too many people gave him or the team any real chance of starting out in any sort of positive fashion, and most were hoping the season didn’t descend into a 0-3 Dumpster fire before any decision was made about bringing starting QB Jameis Winston back to the lineup.

Besides, Winston’s personal issues need to be dealt with, once and for all. Game suspensions don’t really address the underlying issue which, as the news will show anyone willing to listen or read, rampant throughout the worlds of sports, entertainment, and politics. Anything less than a full-throated denouncing and punishment for that sort of inappropriate conduct is a failure of leadership.

Anyway…..

It’s a sure bet that even as I write this, the QB decision has been made by Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, as the team needs to be in short week prep mode for a road game this coming Sunday against the Chicago Bears. I’d like to see Fitz play at least one more game, if for no other reason than to give Winston time to get back into the regular season rhythm of things. I also know that the team has a lot of money invested in Winston, and they’ll want him doing what they’re paying him to do, plus there’s just no denying the energy he brings when he suits up.

(I’m damned glad I’m not the one having to make that call.)

The loss drops Tampa to 2-1, in a three-way tie for top of the NFC South Division, following wins by Carolina and New Orleans over the weekend. Atlanta, having been on the bad end of that Saints victory, falls to 1-2, but we all know the NFC South is a scrappy group and this ain’t over. Not by a long shot.

Next up? I already told you: the Bucs head to Chicago to take on da Bears, who are also 2-1 and will be playing before their always jazzed up home crowd. Here’s hoping Tampa – along with whoever’s taking the snaps – can shake off this loss and keep on keepin’ on.

Bucs life, yo.

Bucs Blog! 2018 Season, Week 2.

Holy hell….Tampa’s 2-0!

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Bucs 27 – Eagles 21

Tampa backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had another solid day, subbing once again for Jameis Winston as the Bucs took on the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles. Fitz collected 27 pass completions on 33 attempts, torching Philly’s pass defense for 400+ yards and touchdown throws to four different receivers. That included a 75-yard beauty to DeSean Jackson on the game’s very first play. Welcome to Tampa, Eagles.

Fitz also got sacked twice and had one pass picked off, but the resulting damage was minimal as the Bucs defense held Philly to three plays and out on the ensuing possession. Elsewhere, Tampa’s running game was, to put it kindly, “subpar,” totaling a measly 43 yards on 23 carries. That’s an area which requires quick and significant improvement if the Bucs want to be in this for the long haul.

On defense? Tampa gave up 350+ yards to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who completed 35 of 48 passes and notched a TD throw of his own. The D did scrap their way to sack Foles three times, and despite two rushing touchdowns held the Philadelphia running attack to 91 yards on the ground.

So, yeah…not smooth sailing or anything, and for a while it looked like the Bucs might be trying to give away the damned thing. After jumping out to a 27-7 lead early in the 3rd Quarter, Tampa’s last four possessions of the game ended in – in order – a punt, a lost fumble, a punt, and another punt.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia scored 14 unanswered points even though the Bucs defense was doing a decent job keeping things at bay. As is so often the case, it came down to the Eagles’ final possession with quarterback Nick Foles trying to engineer a come-from-behind victory with seconds bleeding away. Thankfully, the Tampa D had enough gas in the tank to thwart Philly’s last, lateral-infested final play to drain the clock once and for all.

It’s a win, baby! I’ll take it, especially when pretty much everyone was predicting how the defending champs would to a fine job disassembling my favorite pirate crew. Hah! HAH, I SAY!

Today’s win moves the Bucs to 2-0, their best start since 2010. They retain the top spot in the NFC South Division. The New Orleans Saints won today over Cleveland, and the Atlanta Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers, so everybody in the division who’s not the Bucs sits at 1-1. These standings mean jack and shit at this point in the season because we all know how these four teams play against each other, and how they generally like to keep us guessing as far into the season as possible.

Next up for Tampa? They’re at home on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who just endured a nail-biting loss to Kansas City today. The Steelers are still searching for their first win of the season, and no way will the Bucs want to give that to them. Not at home in front of a national audience.

So, you know where I’ll be next Monday night.

Bucs Life, amirite?

Bucs Blog! 2018 Season, Week 1.

Okay, I’m gonna try this again.

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Bucs 48 – Saints 40

My “Bucs Blog” bits have been a part of my blog for going on a decade now. Every week, I’d analyze the latest game and offer up the casual, not-at-all-expert, sometimes giddy and sometimes frustrated viewpoints of just and other Bucs fan. I’ve followed the team since their inception in 1976. Aside from a couple of years when my father and I had season tickets (the early, sucky years), I spent most of my childhood falls and winters working as a vendor at old Tampa Stadium. Aside from my family, it’s one of the few things I still miss about living and having grown up in Tampa.  It’s a little slice of my hometown that I can take with me wherever I go.

Last year was the first time I gave up on the Bucs Blog entries before the season ended. I stopped on Week 12, by which point the Bucs fell to 4-7 on the year. I guess they decided to smack me for my faltering loyalty, as they proceeded to win the next five games and only just missed the playoffs due to a tiebreaker.

All righty, then. I’ve learned my lesson. Onward!

Over the spring and summer, I didn’t pay too much attention to Tampa’s off-season goings-on. I don’t typically get excited by the draft and all the “drama” accompanying it, so I was out of the loop so far as who the Bucs acquired, either through that venue or via other means. I did hear about quarterback Jameis Winston’s 3-game suspension which would kick off this new season and gave brief thought to how that might affect the team’s stated goals of improving offensive production and so on and so forth.

What I did remember was that last year, backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did a fine job holding the line when called upon to step in for Winston. He’s proven to be a reliable #2 during his time with the Bucs, so I wasn’t too worried but at the same time, I didn’t set my expectations too high so far as getting the new season underway.

Well, hush my mouth.

Fitzpatrick was a beast today during Tampa’s season opener on the road against their NFC South Division rivals, the New Orleans Saints. 21 pass completions on 28 attempts, notching over 400 yards in the air and four touchdown throws? And he ran in another one? No sacks? Who is this dude?

Fitz benefitted from an embarrassment of riches,  completing passes to six different receivers including an absolutely beautiful 58-yard frozen rope to wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Tampa’s ground game was decent, with four different rushers racking up 112 yards. Fitzpatrick was responsible for 36 of those (along with his aforementioned rushing TD. Beast, yo.)

On the other side of the ball? Tampa’s defense had its moments, recovering two New Orleans fumbles, tacking on an extra touchdown for the Bucs’ side of the scoreboard, and managing to claw their way back to Saints QB Drew Brees once. They also stuffed the NO running attack by giving up only 43 yards, though they did allow Saints running back Alvin Kamara to slide into the end zone twice. As for pass defense, well…this might be something that needs addressing in short order, as they let Brees pull down 430+ passing yards along with three TD passes. So, yeah…some things to work on.

But hey! An opening day win on the road against a division opponent? Hell yeah, I’ll take it. Nice job, Bucs.

So, Tampa begins the new season at 1-0, claiming first dibs on the top of the NFC South ladder. The Carolina Panthers are in second place after grabbing a 16-8 win over the Dallas Cowboys, which just breaks my heart. Bringing up the rear are the Atlanta Falcons, who lost on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Next up for the Bucs? At home to face off against those same Eagles. Given the low score Philly grabbed against Atlanta, I’m hopeful that this could be another fun one for Tampa.

Raise the sails and prime the cannons. It’s a Bucs Life, yo!

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 12.

Accompanied by a swift kick in the teeth, reality reasserts itself.

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Falcons 34 – Bucs 20

Yeah.

So, about that Tampa defense which was bringing its game the past couple of weeks? I think the rubber band broke, as the Bucs D coughed up 500+ yards in total offense for the Falcons. Half of those were pulled in by Atlanta receiver Julio Jones, who notched 253 yards on the day along with two touchdowns. To put that in perspective, eight different Bucs receivers together collected 283 yards, and none of them had a TD attached.

Ugh.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, for the third week in a row stepping in for Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, had a decent enough day, completing 27 of 44 passes for 274 yards. Each of Tampa’s two touchdowns came on short scampers from running back Peyton Barber, both highlights of an otherwise frustrating day.

The loss drops the Bucs to 4-7, deep in the cellar of the NFC South Division. Atlanta’s win moves them to 7-4, one game behind rivals New Orleans and Carolina. Is Tampa eliminated from playoff contention? Technically, no. That said, about half the teams in the NFC will need to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle or some other temporal anomaly or gateway to a parallel universe in order for the Bucs to have any real shot. I’m going to go out on a limb, here, and guess that oddsmakers in Vegas haven’t considered such scenarios.

Next up? The Bucs travel to Green Bay to take on their longtime rivals, the Packers. Way back in the Before Time, both teams along with Minnesota, Detroit, and Chicago made up the old NFC Central Division, and match-ups between the Bucs and Packers used to be called “the Bay of Pigs” by great ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman.

Ah, those were the days. At this point, I’m guessing we’ll be having another one of those games, next week.

Bucs life, though, right?

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 11.

Well, if delaying a game ten weeks means you stand a better chance of winning it, then I say do that for all of Tampa’s games.

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Bucs 30 – Dolphins 20

This intrastate matchup was supposed to happen way back during Week 1 of the season, but Hurricane Irma saw to it that Florida residents had far greater concerns than a silly football game that weekend. As both teams originally were scheduled for a bye during Week 11, it provided an opening to reschedule the game.

And so it went yesterday.

Like last week, the Bucs were able to win in somewhat haphazard fashion. Unlike last week, the at times seemed incapable of getting out of their own way while allowing the Dolphins to linger despite Miami’s own error and penalty-riddled performance. They came within spitting distance of letting the game get away from them, leading just 23-20 with 4 seconds remaining in regulation after a Tampa field goal.

Weird things have been known to happen to the Bucs during the waning moments of many a game, so you’ll forgive me for not quite believing they had this one locked up until that last whistle blows. The kickoff to the Dolphins turned into one of those crazy, desperate lateral-fests until Miami’s Jakeem Grant fumbled the ball at the 3-yard line. Tampa’s Adarius Glanton recovered it in the Dolphin’s end zone, earning him a touchdown and sealing the deal for the Bucs.

And that’s when I decided the game was over.

Speaking of heads-up defense, the Bucs D was on it, yesterday. They picked off Miami quarterback Jay Cutler three times, to the point that Cutler was pulled in favor of backup Matt Moore. However, they did allow the Dolphins to hang around way, way too long, given the pressure they were able to bring. Meanwhile, the Bucs offense, once more guided by #2 QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, sputtered and stalled several times while still managing to put 23 points on the board. Hey, it was enough to win. I’ll take it.

The win improves Tampa’s record to 4-6 on the year. Unfortunately, both New Orleans and Atlanta also won, so the Bucs don’t move up anywhere in the NFC South Division standings. Carolina was on its own bye week, but they’re still three games ahead of Tampa, with six games to go this season.

Next up? The Bucs travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. A win against a division rival is….what do they call it at this juncture? Yeah, “critical.” Even then, unless the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons all get lost heading to their next few games, I don’t see the Bucs going to the playoffs unless they get on the phone to StubHub.

Bucs life, yo.

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 10.

If you thought the Bucs strategy for securing a win looked familiar – you know, like something out of the Tony Dungy era – go with that feeling.

But, a win’s a win, and I’ll take it.

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Bucs 15 – Jets 10

It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Seemingly taking their cue from the Days of Old, the Bucs relied on their defense to keep things under control and the game within reach and affording their offense the opportunities needed to score in workmanlike fashion just enough points to win. It’s a formula that produced solid if not spectacular results for years, most notably during Tony Dungy’s storied tenure as the Bucs head coach, and you know what? I’ll roll with it forever if it means Tampa can keep adding notches to their Win Column.

The Bucs’ offensive production was anchored by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, subbing for the injured Jameis Winston. He presided over a pair of time-eating, soul-crushing scoring drives of the sort that make defenses cry like when you watch the ending to Bambi. The drives may only have netted nine points (a field goal and touchdown, with the latter score’s 2-point conversion coming up short), but they generated ripples that affected the rest of the game.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs were in pretty good form. They hassled Jets quarterback Josh McCown all day, to the tune of six sacks and an interception, though they still allowed him to rack up 265+ yards while completing 23 of 39 passes. They also recovered a fumble to halt another New York drive, and held the Jets to only 3 points in the first half. They did allow a late touchdown with time running out in regulation, but by then the damage was done, and the Bucs walked away with the win after recovering the Jets’ onside kick with less than 30 seconds left in the game.

Scrappy wins count, too, by golly.

The win snaps a five-game skid by the Bucs and improves their record to 3-6. However, their standing in the NFC South remains unchanged, as division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans both won, as well, with Carolina gearing up for a game tonight. It’s a dire picture for Tampa, right now, but this is a tiny sparkle of light in an otherwise dark and dreary season. I’m not saying we should be making Super Bowl plans, or anything, but I’ll take any bit of positive news I can get. What’s sad is that the Bucs have too much raw talent to justify such a paltry performance, this year. Something is definitely amiss in Tampa. Here’s hoping the coaches figure it out, and damned quick.

Next up? The Bucs travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins, who are struggling this year with a 4-4 record. This was the game that was supposed to be played back on Week 1, but was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Enjoy your bye week, guys.

#BucsLife

Bucs Blog! 2017 Season, Week 9.

Can you invoke the Mercy Rule at the halfway point of a season? Asking for 53 friends, along with their coaches, trainers, equipment people, and the guys who take care of the Gatorade.

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Saints 30 – Bucs 10

Ugh.

Long story short? The New Orleans Saints are on fire. A six-game winning streak, quarterback Drew Brees having a career year, and the team duking it out with division rival Carolina for supremacy of the NFC South.

As for the Bucs? They are a fire. A trash fire. A dumpster fire. A slow-motion dumpster fire with bionic sound effects and Wilhelm Screams echoing far and wide across the land. The nicest term I can come up with to describe their overall performance against the Saints? “Ineffective.” Does Hallmark have a card for something like that?

QB Jameis Winston and the Tampa offense were never able to find anything resembling a gear, and that was before Winston had to leave the game just before halftime with an apparent shoulder injury. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick was left to fend off the lions…uh, I mean Saints as combat continued, and he even managed to guide the Bucs to a late game TD, but by then the writing was on the wall.

As for the defense? They may as well have brought Brees room service during those few occasions anyone was able to get anywhere near him. I don’t even want to talk about the absolutely spectacular failure to stop New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara during a 33-yard scamper to pay dirt, with seemingly every member of the Bucs defense along with a handful of random fans from the stands able to put a hand on him without bringing him down.

And if that wasn’t enough? The Saints were able to block a Tampa punt and return that for a touchdown, and Winston – prior to his departure – started a fight on the sidelines. Because I guess “Why the hell not?” at this point, amirite?

Ugh.

The loss is Tampa’s fifth in a row, dropping them to 2-6 at their season’s halfway mark. This includes two consecutive losses to division rivals, so I suppose they’re clear to start shopping for Super Bowl tickets at StubHub, or making sure they’ve got some decent wings and chips lined up for the watch party they’ll having at One Buc Place.

Next up? Back home next Sunday to host the New York Jets, and possibly with Fitzpatrick starting for the (as of this writing) questionable Winston. Should be a wonderful nap inducer.

Bucs life. Ugh.