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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 email@example.com
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