Road to the Super Bowl – Week 3
We are starting to get a picture of what sort of team the 2020 Buccaneers are. They’re immensely talented with a huge amount of upside, but are not yet their full form. For us Bucs fans that’s both encouraging and frustrating in equal measure. Frustrating as you can see the yards and plays left on the field as the team is still not quiet on the same page. Encouraging as the team is still playing well and could become so much more than it currently is.
In week three the Buccaneers faced off against a much-depleted Broncos team without their quarterback, top receiver and best pass rusher. Unfortunately for the Broncos with such a depleted team they didn’t pose much of a threat, however it is a measure of a team to make sure teams like the Broncos don’t become banana skins of the season. Fortunately, the banana skin was neatly side stepped after a dominant display by the pewter and red defense. There are still things of concern that I’ll go into before pouring heaps of praise upon the defense and make some bold predictions.
The offense was just good enough to make the most of the opportunities that the defense afforded them, however they were far from at their best. Tom Brady followed up a game where he played well but was let down by his supporting cast, with a game where he generally let down his supporting cast while they played well. Brady just seemed slightly off on a lot of throws all night. This was typified by over-throwing a completely open Gronk in the endzone for a score. While last week balls thrown by Brady were clattering off hands and facemasks, this week players like OJ Howard were making spectacular catches off the helmet of a defender. It wasn’t all bad, Brady made a lot of nice throws and it was obvious they were trying to get their tight ends more involved in the passing game. Despite all the injuries to the Broncos they still had a decent pass rush which managed to get to Brady a bit and rattle him.
Donnovan Smith had another poor game giving up far too many pressures. The one that infuriated me the most was a play where Bradley Chubb initially tried to rush inside but was picked up by Ali Marpet. Chubb then went back outside while another defender attempted to penetrate the gap Marpet was guarding. All the while Smith was assisting Marpet with the block of Chubb. Marpet then makes a big show off passing Chubb off to Smith so he can block the new threat to his gap. Smith then had a massive crisis of confidence and completely forgot how to play left tackle with Chubb easily beating him to the inside for an easy sack. Plays like this are becoming all too familiar with Smith who needs to start playing a lot better than this in a contract year.
While the offense will need to pick their play up when the Bucs play tougher opponents, I have to give so much praise to the defense. Six sacks, 10 QB Hits, 2 interceptions, 7 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a safety. The Buccaneers defense smothered the Denver offense giving them no time to get comfortable at all during the game. So many players had incredible games on defense. Mike Edwards came off the bench and made a stunning one-handed interception. Carlton Davis continued his tough physical play that he has been known for this season. Jason Pierre Paul and Vita Vea continue to wreck shop along the defensive line. Lavonte David continues to be the most underrated linebacker in the league. However, there were two players on defense that stood out for extra praise.
It was Shaq Barratts return to Denver and he made a point of showing the Broncos what they missed out on by not resigning him. He was an absolute monster on the edge for the Buccaneers. Not only did he flash on the stats sheet with 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss, he also made his presence felt in plenty of other ways. His pressure caused whichever quarterback was on the field for the Broncos to shift in the pocket, both into other rushers and towards the sideline. Shifting the release point for a quarterback is one of the best ways to keep him off rhythm and off rhythm the Broncos certainly were. Barratt is playing under the franchise tag this season so it may be his last in the pewter and red.
The other player who really shone for the Buccaneers was Antonie Winfield Jr. He is building an excellent case for defensive player of the year. Much like Travis Kelce is referred to as ‘mini-gronk’ then Winfield Jr is ‘mini-adams’ as he mimics the way the newly acquired seahawk safety plays. He is all over the place. He’s an effective pass rusher notching up his second sack of the season. He can play effectively in run support with a tackle for loss. Also, in the second quarter Sean Murphey Bunting went down with an injury. Winfield was pushed into playing the nickel corner role and Mike Edwards came in to play safety. When you watch Winfield play, he has an extraordinary ability to diagnose a play and react to what’s happening in front of him. Combine that with possibly the surest tackling on the team and the young safety is going to have quiet the career.
This defense is a legitimate and if Tampa gets its act together on offense then the rest of the NFL needs to watch out.
You can find Will on Twitter to talk all things Bucs and a lot more when it comes to the NFL. Be sure to look him up!