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FAB 1. What Will It Take For The Bucs To Win The Division?

I am dedicating this edition of SR’s Fab 5 to my late mother, Judy Ann Dunleavy, who died suddenly on Tuesday at the age of 77. I want to thank all of you Pewter Report readers and Bucs fans who reached out to me this week to express your condolences and support for me and for my family. It’s been a very tough week for me, but your support has meant the world. Please indulge me as I share a few words about Mom, as she inspired me to cover football for a living, and played a huge role in me starting a career with Buccaneer Magazine/Pewter Report 25 years ago. She loved me so well and was the best mother a son could ask for.

Scott Reynolds and Mom

Scott Reynolds and Mom

Let’s start at the beginning where she – not my stepfather or my dad – fostered my love for football. We grew up Redskins fans while living in northern Virginia before switching our allegiances to the Chiefs after a move to Kansas City in 1979 when my mother remarried. Mom and Jim, my stepfather, took me to my first NFL game in the early 1980s, as we would go see one Chiefs game every year for over a decade. Mom and I would fight to see who would get to read the sports section of the Kansas City Star first each day.

When I suffered a knee injury playing high school football we went to the Chiefs’ team doctor for a consultation on a Monday after Kansas City’s loss to Seattle and I remember meeting running back Christian Okoye in the waiting room. I don’t know who was more excited to meet the “Nigerian Nightmare” – her or I.

When I enrolled at Kansas State she became a huge Wildcats fan, as this was right around the time Bill Snyder was turning K-State football around from 1990-95. I worked in the sports information department while in college and I was able to get her to meet Coach Snyder after one of the Wildcats’ wins, which was a real thrill for her.

I fell in love with the Tampa Bay area back in the 1980s and ’90s because we used to vacation every August in Madeira Beach when she would visit her dad – my grandfather – before school started. My stepfather took me to a Bucs training camp practice held at the old Tampa Stadium in 1993 under Sam Wyche and I grew quite fond of the lovable losers in creamsicle orange. So much so that it inspired me to get a subscription to Buccaneer Magazine that year, which led to an internship with the company in 1994 and full-time employment in 1995 when I moved to Tampa.

My parents moved from Kansas City to Lakeland a year later and my mom switched her allegiances to the Buccaneers for good. It’s kind of funny but every time she switched teams her new team suddenly won. That happened with the Chiefs in the late 1980s under Marty Schottenheimer, Snyder’s Wildcats in the 1990s, and the Bucs, who hired Tony Dungy in 1996, the year she and Jim retired to Florida.

Judy and Jim Dunleavy and Scott Reynolds

Judy and Jim Dunleavy and Scott Reynolds

My daughter, Ellie, who is now at K-State, used to attend preschool with her friend Jade Dungy, Tony’s daughter, and my mom always thought it was so neat to be able to talk to Coach Dungy at Ellie’s birthday parties when he would bring Jade. Mom’s favorite Bucs player was Ronde Barber (mine, too), and I was able to arrange for her to meet him after a training camp practice in Orlando, which made her so happy.

Years later, I was having lunch with Barber and saw my mother call me on caller I.D. Sensing the moment for an opportunity to be funny, I handed the phone to Barber, who answered and said, “Hi, Judy! It’s Ronde Barber. I’m just having lunch with your son. How are you doing?” Oh, I would’ve loved to see the look on her face! She really enjoyed that surprise and the unexpected chance to talk to Barber.

I’ll miss my post-game chats with Mom. She was so excited that the Bucs trounced the Packers on Sunday night. She – like myself – loved defense. Don’t get me wrong. Mom liked Tom Brady joining the Bucs too, but she really loved a good pick-six and a sack – or five of them, as she saw against Green Bay.

My mother lived in constant physical pain over the last decade as she was diagnosed with cervical dystonia, a cruel, debilitating neck condition that affects just one percent of the population. And she lived in emotional pain from losing her husband nearly eight years ago, as they were married for 32 years. Tuesday, the day she died, was her and Jim’s wedding anniversary, as they were married on October 20, 1979 when I was seven years old. By God’s mercy she is now pain-free. By God’s grace she is reunited with her husband in heaven. I couldn’t think of a better anniversary gift for her from the Lord above.

Scott Reynolds and Mom

Scott Reynolds and Mom

My mother was kind, strong, loving and was a great inspiration for me. I will always think of her every Saturday when K-State football is on and every day or night the Bucs play. I received a very comforting text from Bucs general manager Jason Licht, who said that my mom and his dad, Ron, who passed away last fall, now have the best seats in the house to watch all the Bucs games with a terrific view of all the action. He’s right, and I appreciate that text very much.

I love you, Mom, and I miss you.

Now, as my mother would say, “Let’s talk some football!”

We’re just days away from the Buccaneers are facing former head coach Jon Gruden this week when they travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders on Sunday Night Football. Not only was Gruden the lone head coach to win a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, but he’s also the only head coach to win three division titles with the Bucs.

With Tampa Bay atop the NFC South with a 4-2 record heading to Las Vegas, let’s see if there are any common denominators from certain statistical categories from the 2002, 2005 and 2007 division-winning Buccaneers that can by applied to this year’s team. New Orleans is right behind at 3-2, while Carolina is 3-3 and Atlanta is 1-5.

2002 BUCCANEERS

12-4 record – 6-2 home record

Scoring
346 points for (No. 18)
196 points against (No. 1)
Net points = Plus-150

Defensive Rankings
No. 1 total defense
No. 1 points allowed
No. 1 pass defense
No. 5 rush defense

Defensive Big Plays
31 INTs / 8 fumble recoveries / 43 sacks

Turnover Margin
Plus-17 turnover margin – 38 takeaways / 21 turnovers

QB Play
23 touchdowns, 10 interceptions

2005 BUCCANEERS

11-5 record – 6-2 home record

Scoring
300 points for (No. 20)
274 points against (No. 8)
Net points = Plus-26

Defensive Rankings
No. 1 total defense
No. 8 points allowed
No. 6 pass defense
No. 6 rush defense

Defensive Big Plays
17 INTs / 13 fumble recoveries / 36 sacks

Turnover Margin
Plus-7 turnover margin – 30 takeaways / 23 turnovers

QB Play
17 touchdowns, 14 interceptions

2007 BUCCANEERS

9-7 record – 6-2 home record

Scoring
334 points for (No. 18)
270 points against (No. 3)
Net points = Plus-64

Defensive Rankings
No. 2 total defense
No. 3 points allowed
No. 1 pass defense
No. 17 rush defense

Defensive Big Plays
16 INTs / 19 fumble recoveries / 33 sacks

Turnover Margin
Plus-15 turnover margin – 35 takeaways / 20 turnovers

QB Play
18 touchdowns, 8 interceptions

Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Gruden won three division titles in Tampa Bay, so let’s see if we can extrapolate exactly what needs to occur from a statistical standpoint for the Bucs to once again win the NFC South. The first thing that stands out right of the bat is the home record, as Gruden’s divisional champions all had 6-2 home records.

The next factor is scoring at least 300 points, which shouldn’t be a problem for Bruce Arians’ Buccaneers to achieve, as the 2020 Bucs already have 177 points through six game and are on pace to score 472 points, which would be a new franchise record. Having a net points advantage of at least plus-26 is important.

That means having a good defense is also important. In all three of Tampa Bay’s divisional title years, the team had either the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked total defense and was in the Top 8 when it came to points allowed. It’s also worth noting that the Bucs had a pass defense ranked in the Top 6 – although offensive football was a little more balanced back in the early 2000s than it is now in the more pass-happy NFL.

Turnover margin is always key to winning in the NFL, and the Bucs had at least 30 takeaways on defense in those NFC South Championship years, in addition to having at least a plus-7 turnover margin. The Bucs NFC South champion teams had at least 16 interceptions on defense and 33 sacks, too.

Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul and ILB Lavonte David

Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul and ILB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

And no divisional championship Bucs team had more than 23 turnovers. In other words, those Tampa Bay squads didn’t beat themselves. The Bucs’ quarterbacks have to play a role in limiting turnovers too, and that means throwing no more than 14 interceptions in a divisional championship year.

So how do the current Buccaneers measure up so far during their 4-2 start? Here are the current applicable stats, followed by some important projections. Let’s see if they align with past NFC South champion Tampa Bay teams.

2020 BUCCANEERS – CURRENT

4-2 record – 3-0 home record

Scoring
177 points for (No. 10)
122 points against (No. 7)
Net points = Plus-55

Defensive Rankings
No. 1 total defense
No. 7 points allowed
No. 5 pass defense
No. 1 rush defense

Turnovers
Plus-4 turnover margin – 11 takeaways, 7 turnovers

Defensive Big Plays
8 INTs / 3 fumble recoveries / 22 sacks

QB Play
14 touchdowns, 4 interceptions

2020 BUCCANEERS – PROJECTION

10-6 record

Defensive Rankings Projection
472 points for
325 points against
Net points = Plus-147

Turnover Margin Projection
Plus-11 turnover margin – 29 takeaways, 18 turnovers

Defensive Big Plays Projection
21 INTs / 8 fumble recoveries / 58 sacks

QB Play
37 touchdowns, 10 interceptions

Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady

Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The only statistical area that falls out of alignment is the projection of the defense recording only 29 takeaways, whereas the three Gruden divisional championship teams all had at least 30 takeaways. But being pace to score a franchise-record 472 points with a plus-147 net point production, and being on pace to set franchise records with 58 sacks and 37 touchdowns should more than account for that missing takeaway.

At this pace, if the Bucs beat the Saints in their November rematch, Tampa Bay could be on its way to winning its sixth NFC South title in team history, and it’s first since Gruden roamed the sidelines in 2007.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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ScottC543
9 months ago

Scott, I am so sorry for your loss.

surferdudes
9 months ago

Having lost a son 10 years ago, I feel your pain Scott, and am sorry for your loss. When things like this happen, it puts what really matters into focus. The year I lost my son, I don’t even remember that Buc season, among other things. He lives on in our hearts, and mind as your mother will live on in yours. Hang in there. There are many blessings coming your way.

bucballer
Reply to  surferdudes
9 months ago

Hey surferdudes. So sorry for ur loss brother. The loss of a child is almost unimaginable. I lost my niece in the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando. It still resonates today. She will/is missed daily. I hope on this day u have a good one sir.

SaskBucs
9 months ago

I’m so sorry for your loss Scott. Thanks for sharing, what a terrific mom! Don’t take them for granted folks.

Jeff
9 months ago

Thank you for sharing a brief story about your mom. Even though this won’t bring much comfort, It’s good to see all the special moments you shared with her throughout the years. Praying for you.

“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds” psalms 147:3

BucRy
9 months ago

Sorry for your loss Scott. I dread the day that I lose mine but it seems like you had a great relationship with your mother. Thanks for still pushing this out to us on a hard week. Your work is always appreciated here by your pewter board family.

brasho
9 months ago

Scott, I don’t recall ever commenting on PR before but I wanted to come on and give my condolences to you and your family over the passing of your mother. Your story almost had me in tears as there were so many similarities between you and I. You and your mom have my mom and I by a few years but there are some uncanny commonalities between us. I too grew up with my mom in Northern VA, Woodbridge in Prince William County. She got me into football by her being a Redskins fan. She never switched allegiances but as… Read more »

bucballer
9 months ago

Scott, so sorry to hear about ur Mom. I think the most important takeaway from ur story is that ur Mom knew she was loved by ur actions. Sometimes we r left wondering or worried if our loved ones knew how much we loved them. In ur case my friend there is no doubt how much u loved ur mother because it seems u showed her on an everyday basis. U were/r a good son. Sorry for ur loss.

bucballer
9 months ago

Any word on if/when McClendon will be practicing with Bucs? Will he play Sunday? He brings another veteran presence to this team and he clearly knows the position. Here, he doesn’t have to be THE player, just a player. Hope his presence and experience will help the Bucs!

e
e
9 months ago

Scott, sorry to hear about your mom…It’s interesting that you were up in northern Virginia as a kid. I lived in Haymarket, VA for two years and was a Redskins when I was a kid. I was a ‘Skins fan for a bit…Kilmer and the crew wasn’t that inspiring at the time, so the team didn’t stick with me.

Spitfire
9 months ago

@scott So sorry for your loss man. Losing your Mom is one of the hardest things in life but she sounded like an Amazing woman! I posted in the comments on the podcast article about Viktor Frankle’s book “Mans Search for Meaning” where he has a theory about if you find “meaning” in “suffering“ then it is no longer suffering. On the Fire Department I’ve shared the idea with family members of patients when they lost loved ones and I’ve always found peace in using the idea myself. Like if your Mom was in pain towards the end and now… Read more »

Iowabucfan
9 months ago

Prayers to you and your family.

JayBuc52
9 months ago

SR I have been a fan since I was a subscriber to the printed magazine and have long admired your insight and football knowledge. But more than anything I have admired you character and faith which often come through on these pages. It is obvious that your Mom, like mine, played a big part in that. My prayers are with you and your family during this time. While I know that you celebrate her life and the knowledge of her eternal wellbeing, you still mourn because of the hole that she leaves behind. My condolences.

Captain Sly
9 months ago

My Sincerest Condolences Scott, I can only imagine how hard it must be to lose someone so special…Your fab 3 intrigued me because of the Bucs running the ball. I strongly believe this is the biggest difference from last year. Defenses have to respect Brady and that passing game while stopping a punishing run game. Brutal Task. Cheers!

drdneast
9 months ago

What a great tribute to your mom. Like most moms, she sounds like she was very special. I’m sorry for your loss.

drdneast
9 months ago

Loved the sound of David and JPP sandwiching Rogers together at almost the me times. Sounded like biting into a double crunch bar.

Buccorona
9 months ago

Scott, we all share the loss of your Mom, who sounds like a wonderful woman and certainly an inspiration. You can honor her memory by being the best football writer you can be. Write with her in your heart.

Greg
9 months ago

Scott, my sincere condolences to You and your Family.

drdneast
9 months ago

Loved the replay on the Antoine Edwards hit of Rogers. When I saw that I was sure we were going to get flagged but didn’t. Thne when I saw it again I said, “Owww. That must smart. He got him at full speed with his pads right where he had no protection around his short ribs. Yikes!” Great hit,

Horse
9 months ago

Scott, you look just like your Mom and I know that makes you smile. I’m so sorry for your loss as we all know it’s tough to lose our Moms. Thinking of you and your family for your loss; sending you lots of hugs.

BeesKnees
9 months ago

Aaron Rodgers actually talked about the hit from Winfield on Pat Mcafee’s show. It seems that hit did bother him.

twspin
9 months ago

Of course we will take a win anyway we can get it. But I get the feeling The Raiders are being forced to play this game. I don’t think we will be getting their very best effort. Their O line has not played together in 2 weeks. Bucs lose this one and the Boo birds gonna be Loud.

danielob
9 months ago

Scott, so terribly sorry for your loss, I know your pain and will pray for you.

Theerealdiehl
9 months ago

Scott, my mother is also the reason I’m such a huge football and Bucs fan. Furthermore, my time as a Bucs supporter has been much better since I’ve been a Pewter Report reader. Thanks for all you do. Thoughts and prayers to you and your family brother.

PatrioticChief
9 months ago

Horrible. I love my mom so much and can’t imagine how I’ll feel at her passing. Condolences and prayers.

scubog
9 months ago

What great stories about your mom Scott. I’m always a bit envious when I hear about folks who were able to enjoy their moms for nearly the entirety of their lives. My mom was sick and often hospitalized or bedridden for nearly all of the nine years I had with her. Because of my youth, with a jealous and mostly mean stepmother, I have very few memories and wonder how different my life might have been. Keep those memories of their “Memaw” alive with your children.

IDGABuc
9 months ago

I am so sorry to hear about your Mom, Scott. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you have so many fond memories of her to look back on.