Welcome to The Hook, my weekly column that hooks you into a different Tampa Bay Buccaneers topic each Thursday, as well as some of my thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL at the end in a section called Cannon Blast.

I invite you to offer me some feedback on The Hook below in the article comments section.
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Sunday’s loss to the Saints was a deflator.

There is no other way to say it.

It wasn’t like the Bucs and Saints went down to the wire and New Orleans kicked a game-winning football as time expired after the two teams battled all night.

Instead it was total domination by New Orleans. Not even competitive. There wasn’t one aspect of the game that you could say the Bucs were better at.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and OC Byron Leftwich
Bucs QB Tom Brady and OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

So where does that leave the Buccaneers in this 2020 season?

There are still plenty of positive things for the Bucs to hang their hats on this year, and one bad game isn’t necessarily a signal of impending doom.

They have the best quarterback of all time – although Saints fan might disagree. They are loaded with weapons all over the field, plus a Top 10 offense and defense. This isn’t your 2009-2019 Buccaneers football team.

Still, Sunday’s loss is concerning.

It was an opportunity to make a statement. A chance to knock the bullies off of their throne and let the rest of the league know this 2020 Buccaneers team has arrived and finally put things together and was ready to make a Super Bowl run.

How does a team with everything to play for come out and play so poorly? How does a heralded second-year staff get thoroughly out-coached?

Looking ahead, the Bucs path to NFC South champions is going to be a difficult row to hoe.

The Buccaneers are set to play an improved and somewhat dangerous team in Carolina this Sunday on the road. New Orleans takes on a San Francisco team at home that will come into the SuperDome missing a number of their best players due to injury. If the Buccaneers have any hope to somehow wrangle the division from the Saints they will need to beat Carolina on Sunday – and pray the Saints somehow implode down the stretch.

The schedule only gets more difficult after this week with the Buccaneers hosting the Los Angeles Rams and then the Kansas City Chiefs. A much-improved Vikings team is up after the Rams and Chiefs, followed by two games with the Falcons who have won three of their last four, sandwiched between a trip to Detroit to face the up-and-down Lions.

After the Saints host the 49ers they then face the Falcons (home), Eagles (road), Chiefs (home), Vikings (home) and close the season on the road at Carolina.

While the two schedules aren’t much different, the Saints have to be feeling nearly unbeatable after the win over the Buccaneers last Sunday. The Saints are healthy for the most part and in a groove.

The Bucs, on the other hand, are wounded and you wonder how much the loss to New Orleans has shaken their confidence.

I still believe this is a much different Bucs team than we have seen in year’s past. A game like this over the last few years like would have spelled disaster.

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But this was before Tom Brady. This was before a defense that is head and shoulders better than what we saw last year in their first season under Todd Bowles. And this is a team loaded with talent all over the field.

However, they must quickly get the loss to the Saints out of their head. It won’t be easy as the Buccaneers have now lost five in a row to the Saints. And in those losses, they really haven’t been competitive. The Saints have become what the Philadelphia Eagles were back during former head coach Tony Dungy’s time in change – a team that just seems to have the Bucs’ number. Even if the Bucs can shake off this loss and get back on the winning track, what happens if the two teams face each other in the postseason?

Bruce Arians and his staff will have to put together the best game plan they have in their entire coaching careers if they find New Orleans to be a playoff opponent down the road. Trying to face the Saints in the playoffs with the exact same game plan they put together last week would be suicide.

But before the Bucs can even start worrying about a re-match with the Saints in the postseason they’ve got to shake off the Saints loss and regroup and not let one loss turn into two or three – or even four. 10 wins likely get you in the postseason, but dropping the next three means the Bucs would have to win their last four to get to double-digits wins and a spot in the postseason.

Arians spoke about what he expects from his team starting this week.

“[We have a] 24-hour rule. That game is over,” Arians said. ‘We’ve got a heck of an opponent in Carolina. You have Monday to lick your wounds and Tuesday you get ready to start for the next one. That’s the beauty of coaches and players – we don’t have to worry about [it for long]. Everybody has to worry about it for a week [but] we go back to work [and] we’re on to the next one. That’s in the rearview mirror now.”

The Buccaneers will get the Panthers best on Sunday, but talent-wise the Buccaneers are the better team and should win the game – if the Saints game is a thing of the past.

Is this Buccaneers team for real, or was it a mirage?

Sunday’s game will tell us a lot.

Mentally tough teams and great coaching staffs can shake off a disastrous loss like the one they had against the Saints.

Don’t forget the 1999 Bucs who went to Oakland and got blasted 45-0, yet still were about to finish the season 11-5 and come within a late Kurt Warner touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl and a bad call on a Bert Emmanuel catch from reaching the Super Bowl.

Arians, Brady and the Bucs leaders on this team will need to earn their paycheck like never before this week. If not all the accolades and warm fuzzy feelings will be out the window and a lot of self-reflection will be taking place this offseason.

CANNON BLAST

Cook’s musings and ramblings about the Buccaneers and the NFL. Good stuff. Check it out.

• The Bucs bandwagon sure lost a lot of deadweight following Sunday’s loss to the Saints. Prior to last weekend Tampa Bay was discussed often on the NFL television and radio as the favorite to reach the Super Bowl, and while some are still predicting the Bucs as the best team in the NFC, radio and TV host Colin Cowherd were extremely critical of the Buccaneers, particularly Bruce Arians. Cowherd even went as far as to say Arians might be the Achilles heal of this team.


• If the Bucs are going to get over the Saints loss, it can’t just come from the coaches. The veterans on the team will need to step up and earn the “C” sewn on their chest.

Bucs linebacker Lavonte David sounded like one of those leaders who is on a mission to help his teammates move on from the loss.

Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Most definitely. I talked to the guys already – this is over with. We played last night [and] it wasn’t the outcome that we wanted,” David said on Monday. “After we watched the film, we got together [and] it’s over with. [We] talked to our coaches, watched the film, examined it, did what we had to do [and] talked it out. We know what we did wrong and we know what we can do better, so that’s over with. We’ve got another divisional opponent coming [up] with the Carolina Panthers, who [are] a great football time, even though the record shows otherwise. We honestly feel that they present a challenge to us, so we’ve got to be able to get better and be able to play a full four quarters of fundamentally sound, smart football on Sunday.”

• Sunday’s loss to the Saints was the worst loss in Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame career. The previous worst loss came at the hands of the Buffalo Bills back in 2003 by a score of 31-0 in their season opener. The Bills loss was just a minor speed bump for Brady and the Patriots as they went onto finish the season 14-2 and ended the year by returning the favor to the Bills by the same score of 31-0. A month later New England was the Super Bowl champs.

Moral of the story? Don’t count Brady out.

Last Laugh

Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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twspin
2 months ago

Enjoyed reading the article Mark. We can ill afford to look past anybody on our schedule. Panthers are not chopped liver. The proof in the pudding may be the Rams and Chiefs though. 2nd half of the season is where the good teams kick it up a notch. We shall soon see what we really have.

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Ron Potter
2 months ago

Bucs team is not a mirage. They are good, but they are not as good as the Saints. Consistency continues to be an issue. We finally saw the players set a new standard of penalty-free, turnover-free football and then the coaches do an about-face in their consistency with a horrible game-plan vs the Saints.

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Horse
2 months ago

Defense Observation: DB’s need to tighten up the distance between themselves and the wide receivers. LB White will be picked on again in pass coverage and I don’t have an answer there except take him out of that spot and let somebody else cover it and he pays attention to Bridgewater. We can’t give Bridgewater all the time in the world to find a Target or to run. Offense Observation: this is the same observation that has been stated over decades from us Monday Quarterbacks; throw short passes play or slant, then running play. Either put in the game another… Read more »

GIJoeWasThere
2 months ago

Devin White is an absolute turd and should be hated by Buccaneers fans. Losing Vea because Devin can’t tackle was a season ender. White cannot cover at all and can barely tackle.

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ExtendLichtMovement
Reply to  GIJoeWasThere
2 months ago

As much as I still believe Josh Allen should have been the pick, Devin White isn’t exactly a turd. The kid has the highest ceiling of any MLB in the league, but needs a coaching staff that plays to his strengths every game, along with coaching him up more on pass defense. 1 1/2 seasons isn’t an adequate time to judge a draft success or failure.

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BDOG
2 months ago

Cowherd, BULLSEYE! BA coached Temple with superior size and talent, and couldnt beat lower division team like Delaware. Pattern folks! BA falls in love with talent, NOT heart, toughness, determination or grit. Teams get punched in mouth and then turn heard to get concussed! Fight! Bucs players didnt show up, coaches outcoached, O coordinator has NO idea how to adjust game plan, manipulate other teams players, go after weakness, “attack”, yank losers out of game, ie. Haeg, and BA is having cocktails and playing Golf, showing no adjustments to get Evans touches, call a damn game! show Byron wrinkles, in… Read more »

awwdembucs
Reply to  BDOG
2 months ago

I could not Agree more

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bucballer
2 months ago

It’s simple really… the Bucs mustn’t play to not lose, but play to win! Be aggressive like u have nothing to lose. Pressure Teddy into a turnover or two. We must get pressure from front four and DBs must play up to the line of scrimmage.

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76bucsfan46
2 months ago

This team has no identity, on offense or defense. We have dropped our 2 best pass rushers into coverage. Other teams watch film too and have figured Leftwich out. Brady looks like he doesn’t trust the oline to protect him. He looks out of his element because Leftwich doesn’t adjust to what the defense is doing. We look unwilling to just take what the defense is giving us and often force throwing deep when 5yds will get the 1st dwn. Carolina will whip our asses if we keep playing soft.

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surferdudes
2 months ago

Have to agree with Cowherd. Look this is a one, two year thing. We’re a season, or two away from the total rebuild. In a dream world we win the S.B. the next two years, B.A., and Brady ride off into the sunset, and Leftwich, or Bowles takes over. Together with Jason Licht they go on to build a dynasty. Raise your hand if you think that happens. More like the game has passed B.A. by, Leftwich never was, or is a good O.C., and Brady’s age, immobility ends his career. The Bucs are a wild card team that loses… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  surferdudes
2 months ago

Agreed on BA/Leftwich OJT ending soon. However I struggle to see a rebuild. Rebuilding would mean unloading contracts like Big Mike, Marpet, Jensen, JPP for draft picks. Forget signing players like Godwin, LVD, Davis, Cappa, Shaq/others who are due. New Coach, New QB, New front office. Ahh No Thanks! Bucs will not be going backwards anytime soon. Cheers!

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eaustinyoung
Reply to  surferdudes
2 months ago

Realistically most of the core is young. Aging guys who will need to be replaced: DTs, OLBs, TE, C, QB, and LT just because he’s shitty, not old. Lots of young RBs and receivers and defensive players. I’d like to see the Bucs throw their entire draft at a couple of OL, OLB, and a QB (if Josh Rosen isn’t a total waste of time, which he probably is). Very realistic in the draft to get these things. Getting Vita back and OJ Howard will be great to compensate for the potential loss of Suh or Gronk, and maybe Khalil… Read more »

eaustinyoung
2 months ago

Here’s how I see the path: The Bucs must go 2-for-3 of these last 3 games leading into the bye week. Must beat Carolina and really the Rams to get a better NFC record (mediocre 3-3 in the conference right now). If they can beat the Chiefs, the hype returns. But at the very least 8-4 into the bye week is MUCH better than 7-5. The only way the Saints lose the division is if they drop 2 games down to 1 game behind Tampa. The Bucs need to stay in-step with both Arizona and LA Rams to maintain their… Read more »

The Wall
2 months ago

I agree with Cowherd. The coaching/game plan/play calling was a mitigated disaster. It wasn’t just bad, it was shockingly bad. I can’t remember this bad of a game from such a talented team, ever! If we have another game even close to that bad, we need to consider a coaching change. Yes, it was that bad. Just no excuses.

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fredster
2 months ago

I’m a glass is half full guy in life. However with my Bucs I just expect to be let down. This team has conditioned me for well over 10 years to expect it. I would love to say they bounce back and pound the Panthers. I’m not going to predict that though. I’m not even sure they will make the playoffs. They aren’t going to win the division. Saints would have to have some key injuries or something strange. Bucs been sliding for while now. They lose to Bears team that has no offense. Swept by Saints in just ass… Read more »

Theerealdiehl
2 months ago

Hate to say this but Jameis Winston is still likely the reason the Bucs are losing to the Saints. Did the Bucs play well? No. There were plenty of opportunities and they missed them (Gronk’s dropped TD, Brady missed open WRs, JPP and others dropping INTs). Were they outmatched? I don’t think so, as evidenced by all the plays that were there and not capitalized on. Did the Bucs get out coached? Absolutely. I don’t think BA, Bowles and co. have accounted for Winston knowing everything about this team and wanting for revenge. Sean Payton picking up Winston was Belicheck-esque… Read more »