table of contents
- Morris Has Found "Mr. Reliable" In Hayward
- Bucs' Passing Attack On The Verge Of Being Special
- Point-Counterpoint: Bucs' Weakest Unit In 2011
- Pewter Predictions: Ranking The Bucs' 2011 Opponents
- In The Lab: CB Anthony Gaitor
- SR's Fab 5 - September 2011
- Pewter Predictions: Bucs Go 9-7 In 2011
- Pewter Predictions: Bucs 2011 Season Awards
- Pewter Predictions: Possible Pro Bowl Bucs
- Black Attack
- Bucs’ Super Subs In 2011
Tampa Bay starts off 2011 strong, but fades in the middle of the season before rallying at the end of the year to finish with a winning record. But the Bucs fall just short of the playoffs this season despite becoming a better team than they were a year ago.
The Buccaneers will be a better team in 2011 than they were in 2010 despite winning one less game. With Tampa Bay facing a tougher division in the NFC North as opposed to the hapless NFC West, which the Bucs swept 4-0 last year, the team won’t win as many games as they did in their surprising 2010 season. Tampa Bay’s opening day contest against a potent Detroit team will determine whether the Bucs have a winning record or finish with a .500 mark in the 2011 campaign.
WEEK 1 – DETROIT
Detroit comes into this game with an awful lot of confidence after going 4-0 in the preseason after a strong finish to the 2010 season, including a 23-20 overtime upset victory over Tampa Bay, which derailed the Bucs’ playoff hopes last December. The Lions offense and defense is clicking, while Tampa Bay’s defense is hit-and-miss and its offense is sluggish. I don’t think the Bucs offensive line can handle the Lions defense, and that’s why I truly think Detroit will win this game. But the X-factor in this contest will be the untimely death of Tampa Bay’s legendary defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, and that’s why I’m picking the Bucs to pull this emotional victory out for the deceased Hall of Famer despite the fact that I think the Lions are the better team in Week 1.
Bucs Win – 1-0 record
WEEK 2 – at Minnesota
The Vikings don’t seem as elite as they were a few years ago when they were knocking on the Super Bowl door. But Minnesota still has running back Adrian Peterson, wide receiver Percy Harvin, defensive end Jared Allen and a loud, home-field advantage. Although the Vikings have a new quarterback in Donovan McNabb, they will rely on Peterson to carry the load and test Tampa Bay’s run defense, which has been porous over the last two years. But the Bucs are up for the road challenge as Josh Freeman and the offense leads the way to help Tampa Bay start off 2-0.
Bucs Win – 2-0 record
WEEK 3 – ATLANTA
The Falcons have beaten the Buccaneers in each of the last five contests and will make it six straight victories, much to Tampa Bay’s chagrin. Atlanta has bolstered its defense with the addition of defensive end Ray Edwards, who will give right tackle Jeremy Trueblood some real problems from one side while John Abraham will keep Donald Penn’s hands full from the other. Matt Ryan has new weapon in Julio Jones to throw to, and containing Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez could be problematic for Tampa Bay’s secondary. Freeman will have to outduel Ryan and LeGarrette Blount will have to outrush Michael Turner for the Bucs to win, but Tampa Bay falls just short again.
Bucs Lose – 2-1 record
WEEK 4 – INDIANAPOLIS
Whether Peyton Manning plays or not, the Colts won’t be the same because the team’s quarterback is not 100 percent due to offseason neck surgery. While Indianapolis is a much more experienced team, the youngry Buccaneers are eager to make a statement in the first home game in prime time in years – one that is sold out, by the way – and the defense comes alive with the necessary sacks and turnovers to get the job done. Freeman rises to the occasion thanks to tight end Kellen Winslow, who has a big game against Indy’s linebackers and safeties as Tampa Bay starts off the first quarter of the season red hot.
Bucs Win – 3-1 record
WEEK 5 – at San Francisco
The Bucs take their national acclaim with them back to the Bay for another road game against the 49ers. Tampa Bay shutout Mike Singletary’s San Francisco team last year, 21-0, but getting that type of victory against Jim Harbaugh’s more disciplined team will prove to be more difficult. Although it won’t get a shutout, Tampa Bay’s defense will get to San Fran’s quarterback, whether it’s Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick and hold the 49ers under 20 points. That will allow Freeman and Mike Williams to do enough to win by a touchdown as the Bucs move to 4-1 on the season.
Bucs Win – 4-1 record
WEEK 6 – NEW ORLEANS
Tampa Bay’s 4-1 start and home prime time victory over Indy has done enough to allow the Bucs to sell out the Saints game, and the raucous environment at Ray-Jay propels the team to its fifth win of the season. While Drew Brees and Co. usually have their way in Tampa Bay and force the Bucs to win in the Big Easy to even the score, the Pewter Pirates actually defend their home turf in this contest, which comes down to a Connor Barth field goal in a rather high-scoring affair. Tampa Bay edges New Orleans in a shootout to start the 2011 season with the best record in the NFC South and the NFC period.
Bucs Win – 5-1 record
WEEK 7 – CHICAGO (in London)
When the Bucs agreed to move this home game to London it did so in part because the organization didn’t think the game would sell out. Little did the team know it would be 5-1 at this juncture of the season, a record that coupled with a strong Chicago fan base in Tampa Bay, would have produced a third straight sellout. Yet with the game on a neutral field in Wembley Stadium, a more experienced Bears offense and defense takes it to Tampa Bay, which suffers a double-digit upset loss as Freeman and the offense have a turnover-filled day in jolly ol’ England.
Bucs Lose – 5-2 record
WEEK 8 – Bye Week
WEEK 9 – at New Orleans
Fresh from its bye week, the Bucs are in position to sweep the Saints, and although they usually fare well in the Superdome, winning the past two seasons in New Orleans, this time it’s different. Brees is razor sharp and has all day to throw, which allows him to carve up Tampa Bay’s usually stout secondary. After losing by double digits in England to Chicago, the Bucs experience their first real blowout loss as New Orleans extracts revenge and wins by more than two touchdowns to pull even or possibly ahead in the NFC South division.
Bucs Lose – 5-3 record
WEEK 10 – HOUSTON
Losing two games in a row has taken the wind out of Tampa Bay’s sails and the Houston game falls short of a sellout. That contributes to a deflating effect for the Buccaneers, which are upset at home by a potent Texans offense led by quarterback Matt Schaub, wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster. Despite a big game from wide receiver Arrelious Benn, the Bucs offense comes up just short in a shootout and loses a tough, heartbreaker at home that will come back to haunt the team later in the season.
Bucs Lose – 5-4 record
WEEK 11 – at Green Bay
Reeling from three straight losses, the Bucs take their wounded psyche to Lambeau Field for a tough game against the defending Super Bowl champions. Despite beating the Packers the last two times they have played them at Ray-Jay and the last time in Green Bay back in 2005, history means nothing as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews do their thing on offense and defense, respectively, and hand Tampa Bay a narrow, cold-weather defeat. A once-promising 5-1 start has turned into a nightmarish 5-5 record thanks to a four-game slide.
Bucs Lose – 5-5 record
WEEK 12 – at Tennessee
Faced with the prospects of having a losing record for the first time all season and the first time since the end of the 2009 campaign, the Bucs rally for what turns out to be a big win at Tennessee. After falling down early, Blount eagerly rolled up big yardage against his former team and helped lead the way on offense as Tampa Bay’s defense puts together a dominant performance against running back Chris Johnson for the Bucs’ first blowout-win of the season. The triumph comes just in time to help salvage the season.
Bucs Win – 6-5 record
WEEK 13 – CAROLINA
The Bucs return home to a still-blacked out Raymond James Stadium and get back on track with back-to-back victories thanks to another blowout, this time over the hapless Panthers. Tampa Bay’s offense, defense and special teams fire on all cylinders as the team gets back in playoff contention with a must-win home game with a tough road slate ahead to end the 2011 season. The rebuilding Panthers just don’t have the talent yet to match the Bucs on offense and defense as Jimmie Giles is inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor in the throwback game, and Selmon is remembered once more by the Tampa Bay faithful.
Bucs Win – 7-5 record
WEEK 14 – at Jacksonville
The Jaguars have always proven to be a difficult, physical matchup for the Buccaneers in the preseason, and this year is no different despite the fact it’s in the regular season. This is a road game that is winnable for Tampa Bay, but turnovers on offense and sloppy play on defense by allowing Maurice Jones-Drew to have a field day as this possible victory turns into a close, stunning defeat thanks to some late-game heroics from rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Much like the Lions game from a year ago, this is a game that Tampa Bay will regret not winning when the 2011 season comes to a conclusion.
Bucs Lose – 7-6 record
WEEK 15 – DALLAS
Tampa Bay returns to Raymond James Stadium to finish its 2011 home slate against Dallas on NFL Network’s Saturday Night Football in prime time. The hometown crowd is energized and a sold out Ray-Jay is rocking. That helps the defense get to Tony Romo multiple times, and Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib shines in shutting down wide receiver Dez Bryant. On offense, Freeman riddles Dallas’ secondary as both Benn and Williams have huge days in the passing game. This crucial home win before a nationally televised audience keeps Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes alive.
Bucs Win – 8-6 record
WEEK 16 – at Carolina
The Bucs face the Panthers again, but an improved Cam Newton makes life difficult for Tampa Bay’s defense as the visiting Pewter Pirates edge Carolina 23-20 thanks to a late Barth field goal. The Bucs lost some steam thanks to a four-game slide in the middle of the season and had to expend a great deal of energy just to fight back from a .500 record. Instead of peaking heading into Atlanta by winning four of its last five games, Tampa Bay is about to run out of gas at the end of the year, although the win over the Panthers assures the team of its second straight winning season.
Bucs Win – 9-6 record
WEEK 17 – at Atlanta
The playoff-bound Falcons wrap up the NFC South division title by sweeping the Bucs with a big win in the Georgia Dome. The loss knocks Tampa Bay out of the playoffs with a 9-7 record, but fuels the team for a playoff appearance in 2011 as the youngest team in the NFL gained another year of much-needed experience. The Bucs finished tied with the Saints for second place in the NFC South this year behind the 11-5 Falcons.
Bucs Lose – 9-7 record
2011 SEASON SUMMARY
Although some will feel that head coach Raheem Morris should be placed on the hot seat for missing the postseason two years in a row, especially since the Bucs took a small step back with a 9-7 record, this year resembles the 1998 campaign in which Tampa Bay fell from a 10-6 mark in ’97 to 8-8 before spring-boarding to a franchise-best 11-5 record in 1999. Despite the 9-7 record, the Bucs got better on offense and defense in 2011, and 2012 is the year the Bucs make a serious run for the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. Morris, whose overall coaching mark is 22-26 heading into 2012, will finally have a winning record at the conclusion of next year, including a potential victory or two in the postseason.