It’s time for Scott Reynolds’ 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game.
Tampa Bay bounced back from last week’s road loss at Los Angeles to claim a 19-17 win at New England. Tom Brady made his return to Gillette Stadium to face his former team and did just enough for the Bucs to beat the Patriots and move to 3-1 on the season. The Bucs defense showed some signs of life, forcing two takeaways and recording four sacks, but lost star cornerback Carlton Davis III to a severe quad injury and potentially play-making safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. to a concussion.
2 BIG STATEMENTS
Table of Contents
STATEMENT 1: Tryon-Shoyinka Brings Bucs Pass Rush To Life
I’d like to interrupt coverage of the Bill Belichick vs. Tom Brady Bowl for some breaking news. Bucs rookie outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka had a breakthrough performance before a nationally televised audience.
You know that Brady and the Bucs did enough to beat Belichick (who didn’t play a down!!! according to head coach Bruce Arians) and the Patriots in New England, 19-17 on Sunday night. And yes, Arians is right. This game – and the mythical Brady vs. Belichick matchup – was overhyped. We were even guilty of it, too.
So let’s focus on a real difference-maker in Sunday’s game – someone not named Brady or Belichick. Tryon-Shoyinka, the Bucs’ first round pick, recorded his first two NFL sacks in just his fourth game and second start of his promising career. Tampa Bay came into Week 4 with just three sacks in three games, but got four sacks on Sunday night with Tryon-Shoyinka igniting the pass rush fire. Replacing an injured Jason Pierre-Paul, Tryon-Shoyinka made his presence felt from the start, recording an early first quarter sack of New England rookie Mac Jones.
It looked like Tryon-Shoyinka and nose tackle Vita Vea were running a game with Vea crashing hard upfield against center David Andrews, and the rookie looping back inside of left tackle Isaiah Wynn for the sack. Either that or it was just a great, instinctive play from Tryon-Shoyinka to feel Vea working upfield and then shoot inside as left guard Mike Onwenu pulled out of the B-gap.
On the very next play, Tryon-Shoyinka nearly had another sack as he beats Wynn off the snap. The problem is that he doesn’t dip his inside shoulder and throw a club-rip move to angle towards the quarterback. Instead, the rookie circles around and overruns Jones as he steps up to avoid the sack.
Once Tyron-Shoyinka masters this move, the sacks will pile up. It’s clear he has the first-step explosiveness and length to run the arc and win.
On the rookie’s second sack, which came on the money down – third down – it’s a similar game with Vea. This time, Vea blasts through guard Ted Karras and blows up Wynn, who falls to the ground. Tryon-Shoyinka takes a few steps upfield, slams on the brakes and then shoots inside for a clear shot on Jones for his second sack.
You have to appreciate Tryon-Shoyinka giving some Twitter love to Vea, his set-up man, for the sacks.
What’s also exciting about the rookie’s development is the confidence with which he’s playing the run. Tryon-Shoyinka was supposed to be a designated pass rusher this year, but the injury to Pierre-Paul has forced the first round pick to be an every down defender. Tryon-Shoyinka has taken on the challenge – just like he took on three Patriots when setting the edge on this first quarter run play. Sensational play by No. 9 to annihilate this run play by driving wide receiver N’Keal Harry into Onwenu and fullback Jakob Johnson.
Just outstanding recognition, effort and power from #Bucs OLB @joe_tryon to set the edge and blow up this run play up. Essentially takes on 3 Patriots and wins with leverage, length and strength. He’s not just a pass rusher, folks. pic.twitter.com/udoXbdcezD
“The biggest thing is staying in his gap and not trying to jump underneath a block and make a play,” Arians said. “The more he learns about how to play this defense the better he’s going to get. He’s not bad at all right now. He read the crack sweep, jumped outside the crack block and blew everybody up. That’s what we expect him to do. He’s just going to get better and better.”
So here’s the dilemma the Bucs have. Obviously the team missed Pierre-Paul’s presence last week when Tampa Bay recorded just one sack against Los Angeles. But the reps that Tryon-Shoyinka has gotten in JPP’s place have only accelerated his development during his rookie season.
Pierre-Paul’s shoulder is not fully healed, and even when he returns, the Bucs would be wise to let JPP and JTS share the workload on the edge. This kid is special, and the more reps the better for JTS moving forward.
“I feel it was good timing,” Tryon-Shoyinka said. “It was Sunday Night Football – I grew up watching it all my life, so being able to get that tonight was really special.”
STATEMENT 2: Bucs Are Now In Survive And Advance Mode
With all three of its starting cornerbacks – Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and now Carlton Davis III – injured, as well as playmaking safety Antoine Winfield Jr. in concussion protocol, Tampa Bay is in pure survival mode in the secondary.
Win and advance – by any means necessary.
Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: USA Today
Forget the blowout wins and style points right now, Bucs fans. If they come, they come. But right now the defending Super Bowl champions might need to win ugly in the coming weeks to overcome all of the injuries in the secondary.
Of course there is no such thing as an ugly win in the NFL. All wins are beautiful when they come, especially when adversity is overcome, as it was on Sunday night when the Bucs lost Davis and Winfield.
“It’ll be awhile it looks like,” Arians said about Davis’ injury.
Winfield is in the concussion protocol and his status for Sunday’s game against Miami is unknown.
All wins count the same, whether the victories are by a margin of one point or 20 – or whether Tampa Bay scores 34 points or manage just 19, as they did in New England. I’m not trying to be a downer, but one key factor in both of the Bucs’ Super Bowl championship seasons was the remarkable health of the team in 2002 and 2020.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
When Tampa Bay won Super Bowl XXXVII, the team only had one starter on injured reserve. That was nose tackle Booger McFarland, who was ably replaced by Chuck Darby and Buck Gurley. Last year, the Bucs also only had one starter on injured reserve. That was right guard Alex Cappa, and reserve Aaron Stinnie stepped in and didn’t miss a beat.
We’re a month into the season and the Bucs secondary has just been decimated. Brady and the healthy starters will have to elevate their level of play to make up for a depleted defensive backfield over the next couple of weeks when the team faces Miami, Philadelphia and Chicago. While it’s true that Tampa Bay won’t face any potent aerial attacks over the next three weeks, nothing is a given in the NFL.
The Bucs will have to earn their wins by any means necessary until the secondary heals up and the Grave Diggers come back to life.
2 PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: What Was Wrong With Tampa Bay’s Offense In New England?
There were a myriad of things that went wrong for Tampa Bay’s offense at New England to produce a less than stellar outcome for Byron Leftwich’s unit. The rainy conditions certainly didn’t help. There were several drops by wide receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Evans, tight end Cameron Brate and running back Leonard Fournette and the weather conditions in New England may have played a role in those.
The offensive play-calling wasn’t the greatest, especially in the red zone. Nor was the execution.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
In a game that was reminiscent of Tampa Bay’s 20-19 road loss at Chicago last year in prime time, the Bucs bogged down in the red zone. Yet, what I liked about this performance from Tampa Bay was that despite the self-inflicted wounds in the red zone and the penalties (seven for 74), the team found a way to win this game.
Part of that was due to Tom Brady and the offense not committing any turnovers and giving the Patriots any extra possessions. On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay’s defense recorded two takeaways – an interception and a forced fumble by safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. – and that aided the Bucs’ cause on Sunday night.
While Brady became the NFL’s all-time career passing yardage leader and got the win, it wasn’t his best game. Brady completed just 52 percent of his passes (22-of-43), throwing for 269 yards. While some of this incompletions were drops, Brady was just a little bit off on some throws. Some of his passes sailed a little high, and that’s usually a result of quarterbacks being a little too amped up.
That’s understandable – even for a 44-year old quarterback who has seen and experienced just about everything in his 22 years in the NFL. But the one thing Brady hadn’t experienced until Sunday night was a homecoming game like that.
It wasn’t the 300-yard, multiple-TD night that perhaps Brady and others envisioned in his return to New England. Yet it was rather Brady-esque, leading his team to yet another game-winning field goal drive in the fourth quarter. Patriots fans reveled in those moments for years as he helped New England win six Super Bowls.
On Sunday night, Brady did that to his old team – and produced just enough offense for the Bucs to come out on top.
QUESTION 2: How Did Sherman Play In His First Game As A Buccaneer?
Not great, but certainly good enough to help Tampa Bay win. Forgive 33-year old cornerback Richard Sherman for being a step slow while covering the Patriots receivers on Sunday night. He practiced three days in a row in a new scheme with new teammates after not spending a single day in an NFL mini-camp, OTA or training camp this year.
Sherman was anticipating not having to play – much less start – against the Patriots on Sunday night. But an injury to Jamel Dean last week in Los Angeles pressed him into duty, as the Bucs defensive backfield was desperate.
Bucs CB Richard Sherman – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I need at least a week of practice to really hone things in to play at the level I’m capable of,” Sherman said earlier in the week. “I think it would be foolish to expect me to come out this week and play at a super high level. If I did it, it would be another thing to chalk up as a cool thing I did. But I think the expectation is for me to train, to get in shape and to give me an opportunity for the following game.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Sherman gave up eight catches for 98 yards on eight targets. He held his own to a degree, and didn’t give up a play downfield, finishing with a team-high seven tackles. Sherman also recovered a fumble for Tampa Bay’s defense.
“I felt he was getting back into it with no training camp, none of that, and I am proud of him for the game tonight,” Bucs inside linebacker Devin White said. “He had a fumble recovery, and I think he led the team in tackles. I think he came out strong and will continue to get better.”
Sherman suffered a calf injury that limited him to just five games in San Francisco last year. It’s too early to tell if he’s truly lost a step, or if he just needs to knock off some rust, get back into football shape and get his legs under him again.
The Bucs are certainly hoping it’s the latter. With all of the injuries at the cornerback position, Tampa Bay must have Sherman playing at a higher level as the season progresses.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: Bucs Pass Rush Continues To Improve
Miami continues to start backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who is replacing the injured Tua Tagovailoa. Brissett threw two touchdowns in the Dolphins’ 27-17 loss to Indianapolis on Sunday, but was sacked three times. He’s been sacked nine times in the last three games since entering the lineup.
Tampa Bay’s pass rush made some strides against New England with four sacks on Sunday, led by rookie Joe Tryon-Shoyinka’s pair of QB captures. I look for that to continue with four more sacks at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, including another two from JTS. With an ailing secondary, it is critical now more than ever for Tampa Bay’s pass rush to get after the quarterback and apply pressure.
PREDICTION 2: Now It’s Whitehead’s Turn
Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Three weeks ago, reserve safety Mike Edwards had a pair of pick-sixes in Tampa Bay’s 48-25 win over Atlanta. On Sunday it was Antoine Winfield Jr.’s day to be a playmaker in the secondary with an interception and a forced fumble. It seems only fitting that starting strong safety Jordan Whitehead steps up and comes up with some splash plays.
Whitehead had two sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery last year in the regular season. Then he added a huge forced fumble at Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game. With one forced fumble already, I predict Whitehead, who is in a contract year, will show up with a big splash play or two against Miami. Whitehead, pound-for-pound the toughest Buccaneer on the roster, could force his second fumble of the season next Sunday.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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