Road to the Super Bowl – Week 2

It’s all slowly starting to come together.

Last week against the Saints the Bucs looked like a dominant team for a single drive. This week it was for a whole half. Hopefully by week five against the Packers we’ll have learnt how to play a dominant game for four whole quarters. However, it was good to get a win, despite how nervous the second half was. Again, it was a case of familiarity. One of the familiar aspects of being a bucs fan of the last 5 years has been the inability of the team to close out games when they’ve been dominant in the first half and it looked like the Panthers were coming back into the game. I’ll talk about what went wrong for the Bucs in the second half later and how they eventually pulled out the win, but first we should talk about the first half.

What a wonderful start to the game. The defence kept up its tempo from the previous game and balled out. Antonie Winfield Jr. Is making a case for defensive rookie of the year. He was all over the field, making superb open field tackles, making pass breakups and rushing the passer in equal measure. He even forced the first turnover in the game for a defence that got 4 takeaways. He wasn’t the only member of the team to turn up. Ndamukong Suh put a pedestrian performance from week one behind him and got back to his game wrecking ways with two sacks along with two qb hits and two tackles for loss. The defensive line was much improved from the previous game and were a constant thorn in the side of the panther’s offense.

The first half Tampa bay offense also looked stella. In the first half they scored 21 unanswered points and looked pretty comfortable in the process. Apart from a botched hand off between Brady and Rojo which nullified which would have been another scoring drive, there was little to be annoyed about going into halftime. Mike Evans put his quiet performance against the saints behind him with a score and around 90 yards through the air. He even got a significant number of yards after carry which is fairly unusual for Evans. So this time Bucs fans got to experience what being a good football team is like for a whole half.

However, after the half time break, something went wrong with the Bucaneers. Some folks will want to pin the failures of the offense on the playcalling or on Brady. Personally I don’t think either are to blame. If you look at the stats sheet then it seems Brady didn’t have the greatest day, but in the second half especially he suffered from a series of horrible drops. Shady McCoy had a terrible drop where a ball bounced off his hands in the endzone at the back half of the fourth quarter. If he had caught it then the Bucs would have been 2 scores up with four minutes to go and essentially would have iced the game away. More frustrating than that was Cyril Graysons drop a series before. Grayson was free down the sideline, not a defender in sight. All he had to do was pull the ball in and sprint to the end zone for the easiest of scores. Instead the ball clattered off his facemask and he’ll forever go down in the annal of ‘look at the bucs being rubbish’ gifs.

I also thought the playcalling in the second half of the game was fine on both sides of the ball. We were attempting to play ball control on both sides. We tried to run the ball down the panthers throat while continuing to pressure the panthers offense while allowing them to complete passes underneath and chew clock. The problem was not what was being called, it was the execution. The defensive backfield took its foot off the gas a little and allowed some big completions. We’ve already talked about the drops in key situations. The game plan for the second half was fine, but other players need to step up and make bigger contributions to the team.

Someone who did make a decent contribution was Leonard Fournette. He averaged 8.6 yards a carry for 103 yards on the day and two touchdowns. The key touchdown was the one that iced the game. The panthers had attempted an onside kick which the bucs recovered. On the very next play, the bucs ran a simple inside run. Fornette simply got behind Marpet and Jensen who double teamed their opposite defensive lineman. After he squeezed through that gap made by the offensive line, he was off to the races and was not caught. After that touchdown, Bucs nation breathed a collective sigh of relief as the game was no longer in doubt.

Being 1-1 in the division as well as having a 1-1 record is not too bad. We’re on to Denver.

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!