Bucs WR Vincent Jackson - Photo by: Getty Images
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 of dismal humanity and I’m emboldened – talking bad and taking names! Now it’s still too early to start talking playoffs, but we’re in good position to win a few more games. Take stroll with me down the rest of the schedule.
The Colts will have no Luck –Andrew Luck that is, as he will be out with fractured ribs and a lacerated kidney. The OC, Pep Hamilton, has been fired and the HC, Chuck Pagano, is a lame duck. QB Matt Hasselbeck is 40 years old and can still play, but they can’t find a running game behind once great RB Frank Gore and WR T.Y. Hilton isn’t in top form due to injury.
The Falcons have lost 3 in a row and play the Vikings next. They may be chopped liver by the time we get to them. For some reason, Matt Ryan has turned into a turnover machine (10) and their defense has all but disappeared. On top of that, we’ve been there and done that. We beat them at their home, no reason not to beat them at ours.
The Saints are falling apart as we speak – the worst defense in the NFL. DC Rob Ryan has been fired and HC Sean Payton has been given permission to pursue other jobs at seasons end. Drew Brees is still a hand full, but we beat’em in the dome, we can beat’em at home!
This is our TNF “Color Rush” game. Look for our Bucs to be resplendent in bright pewter and red. The Rams defense will be tough sledding, but their offense has fallen apart lately. The Ravens came from behind 10 points to beat them this week as Nick Foles has been benched in favor of Case Keenum who is now in concussion protocol. If we play them like we played the Cowboys and Eagles, we can squeak out a win here, but it won’t be easy!
Even though the Bears fell to Peytonless Denver this week, they are better than most people think. Cutler is playing his best football in years and has been deadly accurate, but tends to crater under pressure. Of all the games on the remaining schedule, Lovie Smith will not want to lose this one – for one it’s da Bears and two it’s our last home game. The defense will have to win this game and I believe they will.
If there is any game remaining that the Bucs will probably lose, it is this one. But wait a minute, hold the presses. I’m assuming the Panthers have already clinched their playoff berth and may not want to risk injury to key players. Remember the 2009 Super Bowl season of the Saints. They would go on to set the record for the longest undefeated season opening (13–0) by an NFC team since the AFL–NFL merger. They would then lose their last 3 games, the second of which to the Bucs 20-17 in the dome (remember Big Frank Okam).
While I don’t wish misfortune on any team or player, you play the hand you’re dealt. While some would call it luck, I prefer to believe like others that when opportunity meets preparation, you win! We’re going to get some of our weapons back soon – couple that with preparation and the opportunities (misfortune) afforded by our opponents, we could win a few more games – probably not as many as I suggested (lost my head) – but more than originally thought. Go Bucs!
Nicely put mac
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. They play the Vikings which is probably a loss for the Falcons with the way they have been playing. If we beat the colts, both us and the Falcons will be 6-5 when we play them in Tampa. A second win against them would give us a full game advantage and the head to head advantage. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself because we do have a rookie QB and a young team, but I predict the Bucs finish 5-1 or 6-0 and make the playoffs.
Macabee; you got it all and then some.
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 is going to start fill up here, gents…
Great post Macabee. We have a one-game edge on Seattle in conference losses. We have a chance.
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.
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!
Good write macabee. Are you interning for a slot at PR.
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.
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!
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