Back-to-back wins. Check.

Tampa Bay crossed that task off its to-do list Sunday in Philadelphia and did so in convincing fashion. The Bucs hadn’t strung together wins since getting three straight in 2013.

Creating legitimate excitement, though, comes with how Tampa Bay went about thrashing the Eagles on their own field. It was Washington without the late-game letdown. Sixty straight minutes of solid football all the way to the final whistle.

HATS OFF
Since last year head coach Lovie Smith’s delivered a message of staying the course and believing in the system.

Sunday was another sign that the work of Smith and general manager Jason Licht is starting to pay off. The Bucs neutralized Philadelphia’s offensive attack and their commitment to the run helped produce a huge day for Doug Martin.

Smith acknowledged the success after the game but said there’s more to come.

“It’s the best we’ve played in a while,” he said. “This week we talked a lot about back-to-back wins. I know that’s small to everybody else, but to us, it’s something we haven’t done in a long time. The guys really believed it, to get to .500.

“We’ve talked a lot about being relevant again. We’re relevant again.”

RUNNING WILD
People can call Doug Martin whatever nickname they want as long as he’s doing stuff like that on Sundays.

The Bucs were talking last week about reviving their rushing attack and getting Martin back on track and the response was impressive. The fourth-year pro nearly topped his career single-game rushing mark by blasting the Eagles defense for 235 yards on 27 carries.

Thanks in part to some impressive run blocking up front, as well, Martin ripped off chunks of yards all day and allowed the Bucs to control possession for almost 36 minutes.

And as it’s been all season, Martin wasn’t alone in the backfield. Charles Sims continues to be a great change-of-pace back and picked up 43 yards on 10 rushing attempts to go along 26 more receiving yards and a touchdown on three catches.

THIEVERY
Not much makes Lovie Smith happier than seeing his defense flip the field and Tampa Bay’s doing it as well as any team in the league right now.

Consistently winning the turnover battle is a good way to win on the scoreboard. The Bucs added four more yesterday with three interceptions of Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez and a fumble recovery by defensive end Jacquies Smith. Linebacker Lavonte David stayed impactful by grabbing two of those interceptions and taking the second into the end zone.

Tampa Bay’s defense is up to 20 turnovers on the year (10 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries) and its recorded at least one in all 10 games. Only four other defenses in the league have hit or exceeded the 20-turnover mark – Carolina (25), the New York Giants (22), Philadelphia (21) and the New York Jets (20).

HARVARD BALLER
Cameron Brate may not be flying off fantasy football waiver wires but the young tight end is stepping up for the Tampa Bay offense.

Tight ends had been almost non-existent since Austin Seferian-Jenkins got hurt Week 2. Brate, Brandon Myers and Luke Stocker would rotate in and out but passes rarely went their way.

That’s changing a little and Brate is making the most of his limited opportunities. The team’s lone Ivy Leaguer – he played at Harvard – snagged his second touchdown of the season in Philadelphia and caught three of his four targets for 47 yards.

Brate’s shown good hands since spending most of last season on the Bucs practice squad and is now up to nine catches for 131 yards. Tampa Bay had to sign him off the Saints practice squad in late September after releasing him twice that same month and Brate’s proving he’s worth the roster spot.

WHY NOT?
Four losing years in a row can cause any team’s followers to temper expectations, even when things start to turn around. Optimism took a big hit after the season-opening home debacle against Tennessee, but that suddenly feels lightyears away.

Lineup tweaks on both sides of the ball are paying off and looking better each week, the team’s been able to absorb a rash of injuries without falling apart, and getting above .500 this late in a season is oh so close.

Talking playoffs probably makes some people roll their eyes still and others might not want to get ahead of themselves just yet.

But why not? It’s time to get greedy and want three in a row. Barring a rare tie, someone’s walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium over .500 next Sunday. The Colts have won two straight, as well, but they don’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents.

The win is there for the taking, people are starting to pay attention to the Bucs around the league for positive reasons and 6-5 would put Tampa Bay right in the thick of things heading into a divisional showdown against Atlanta.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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macabee
macabee
5 years ago

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the Bucs schedule may have gotten a bit easier. We don’t have all of our weapons back, but we’re doing the best we can with the rest. Adam Schefter reports that ASJ will be cleared to play this week. Cameron Brate is making his return a non-issue, but the more weapons we have, the better. It looks like we may play the last 4 games without Kwon Alexander, but Lavonte David is back in a big way. I like where the Bucs are today. We just opened a can on the Eagles in their den… Read more »

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

Nicely put mac

Entre
Entre
Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

Agree with everything you said mac except for the thing about not thinking playoffs yet. Im thinking playoffs. We are a full game ahead of every NFC team for the last wildcard spot except the Vikings, Packers, Falcons, and Seahawks. Either the Vikings or Packers will win the north. If you assume the other team will get one wildcard spot, then our real competition is the Falcons and Seahawks. The Seahawks schedule is much tougher than ours, and I am confident that we can win more games then them down the stretch. So the real focus in on the Falcons.… Read more »

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Macabee; you got it all and then some.

e
e
5 years ago

I wonder how much the defense is going to miss Alexander in the middle? They were starting to find their rhythm. I wonder if we lose some on D and we have ASJ back, we gain on O… Should we expect more high scoring games over the coming weeks? I’m not so concerned about playoffs as I am seeing Winston develop this year. It’s interesting that Cam threw his first four & five TD game of his career yesterday along with Winston, but in his fifth year. Jameis did it in 10 games. I have a feeling that the bandwagon… Read more »

jerseybucsfan
jerseybucsfan
5 years ago

Great post Macabee. We have a one-game edge on Seattle in conference losses. We have a chance.

wnb0395
wnb0395
5 years ago

Agree completely with Mac post. The 2 games that worry me the most are The Bears and Rams. The Rams game will be there last home game of the year and possibly ever with the talk of them moving to LA. I have tix to the game and cant wait to watch the Bucs live. The Bears have been playing really good ball lately. Playing Carolina late in the season could work to our advantage as long as they still aren’t undefeated they should sit there starters. I don’t see why we couldn’t finish 3-3 or 4-2.

plopes808
plopes808
5 years ago

We have a chance in all of our remaining games. There is no team left on the schedule that I look at and think we can’t win. We played Carolina in a really close game despite Winston throwing all those picks so imagine what we could do now, especially if they’re sitting their starters. Things are definitely looking up for us, I don’t see us losing more than 1-2 the rest of the year. Wildcard doesn’t look to be out of the question. Go Bucs!

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Good write macabee. Are you interning for a slot at PR.

ColoradoBuc
ColoradoBuc
5 years ago

macabee: that was just what I had been thinking since yesterday – All of the remaining games are winnable, so it’s just a matter of how many we will win. As we seem to be a team on the rise, the number is likely to be larger rather than smaller.

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

Trying to not get hopes up too much and taking 1 game at a time and I hope the Bucs are also. Looking at that schedule, with guys getting healthy, way they are playing last couple weeks,etc. it does appear to me that getting on a roll could very well happen. Let’s just beat the Cokts and see what happens next. Go Bucs!