“THE GOOD TEAMS FIND A WAY!”
My good friend and fellow Bucs superfan “Big Nasty” Keith Kunzig said that on his Facebook LIVE after watching Tampa Bay receiver Breshad Perriman catch a 58-yard game-winning touchdown in overtime to beat the Bills in front of a very packed and very loud Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night. He’s right. GOOD teams do find a way to win games like that. The problem is that GREAT teams don’t blow a 24-3 halftime lead and end up in games like that. This Bucs team is good, but they have a lot of work left to do to be great.
It was a tale of two halves, where the Bucs dominated the Bills in the first half taking a 24-3 lead into halftime, then turned around and got outscored 24-3 in the second half before winning it in overtime. It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions for us fans in the stands: Elated in the first half but Pissed off in the second. And then pandemonium broke out in OT when Perriman broke free. It was insane! It was the loudest I’ve heard RayJay in a really long time. Maybe ever. The only comparison would probably be 14 years ago when Michael Spurlock ran back the very first kickoff in franchise history after a 31-year drought. In any case, this was a great team win with a bunch of “good“, but it also had its fair share of “bad” team mishaps as well. So let’s dive into the “Good, Bad & Ugly” from this Bucs vs. Bills game, so we can put it to bed and move on to Taints Week.
Of course, the win was “good“; Any win, no matter how it’s accomplished, is a “good” thing, especially when your team is fighting for home-field in the playoffs. But this win wasn’t just “good“; it was the way they won that was rare. How rare? Since Brady came into the league in 2000, NFL teams that were outscored in the second half by 21 points or more have only won three times out of 252 games. That works out to about a 1.2% winning percentage. Teams are only 1-58 since 2015 in that same scenario.
Had the Bucs lost, it would’ve matched the largest blown lead of Brady’s career. Luckily he completed the game-winning pass to Perriman to avoid that loss, which was only the second overtime touchdown pass of his career and the first since the 2003 season. Another example of how rare this type of win really was, the Bucs allowed 466 total yards and forced just one turnover in this game. They were 0-15 in such games until Sunday. It was the Bucs’ first OT win since the 2018 season. Oh, and according to StatHead, the Bucs 94-yard game-winning drive in overtime was the longest in the NFL over the last 20 years. THAT is how rare of a win that was on Sunday.
The First Half
Everything. Every single thing about the first half was good. The offense was rolling, putting up 303 total yards and 24 points against a Bills defense that had only allowed 272 total yards and 16 points PER GAME. The defense was smothering, allowing just 158 total yards and 3 points for a Bills offense that had been averaging 376 total yards and 28 points PER GAME. It was the best half of football that I’ve seen this team play since the Super Bowl.
I know they gave up 2 sacks in this game, but I’m giving the “big boys” upfront some love this week. They have been blocking their asses off and keeping Tommy Boy upright and clean for most of the season. In fact, they have allowed the fewest sacks in the league (17) right now. In comparison, the Ravens have allowed the most (47) this year. Not only have they been pass blocking well, but they have been run blocking pretty good too. Leonard Fournette has had two 100-yard rushing performances in the last three games while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
Third Down D
The Bucs defense has been having a lot of trouble getting off the field on third down this season. On Sunday, they were stifling, allowing the Bills offense to convert just 2 of 15 third-down attempts. That’s a 15% conversion percentage. The Bucs haven’t allowed so few conversions on that many attempts since the 2005 season.
Tom Brady has been rewriting the NFL record book all season. In this game alone, he passed Drew Brees (7,142) for the most completions in NFL history, AND he completed the 700th touchdown of his career on the overtime pass to Perriman. No fan received that ball by accident. Chris Godwin also hit a milestone by achieving the second 1,000 yard season of his career, making him one of just six players in franchise history to have multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Mike Evans scored his 11th touchdown on the season, which tied him with Mike Williams for the fourth-most, for a season, in franchise history. Since joining the Bucs in 2014, he has had the most receiving touchdowns (72) in the NFL and only Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins have more yards in that time.
Richard Sherman recorded his first interception as a Buccaneer, but it was his 37th pick since entering the league in 2011, the most by any player during that span. Shaq Barrett got his 9th sack of the season, surpassing his total from last season and giving him 36.5 in his three years as a Buccaneer. That’s more than Warren Sapp or Lee Roy Selmon ever had in their best three-year span and only trails Simeon Rice with 42.5 sacks.
The Bucs are now 25-8 with Brady and have scored 30+ points in 20 of 33 games. That’s the most games in the NFL during that span. In fact, they have scored 30+ points in all six home games this season. If they can surpass that mark against the Saints on Sunday and the Panthers in Week 18, they would be the first team in NFL history to do so.
Penalties have been an issue for Tampa Bay this season, and they were even the most penalized team at one point this year. But like last year, something has clicked, and the team is now playing more disciplined. Against the Bills, the Bucs were flagged just four times for 24 yards, making it their fifth straight game with under 50 yards in penalties. I usually point the penalties out when it’s on my “BAD” list, so it only seems fair to mention it when it’s a positive thing.
Josh Allen is a good football player, not just a good quarterback. He finished this game 36 of 54 for 308 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception and also had 12 rushes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Half of his runs were for first downs. He’s only the second quarterback to run for 100+ yards on the Bucs since Michael Vick ran for 127 yards in the 2006 season. He’s only the third QB in NFL history to pass for 300+ and rush for 100+ in the same game. The other two were Cam Newton in 2015 and Russell Wilson in 2014. I’m not sure why Todd Bowles elected not to spy Allen like the old Bucs defense used to do with Vick, but maybe they should have.
The Ticket Sellouts
There was an awful lot of blue sitting in the stands of Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. Too much. There usually is when it comes to some of the northern teams like the Bills and Giants because there are a lot of New York transplants down here. However, I have a feeling that at least some of those seats were sold by Bucs season ticket holders trying to make a quick buck right before the holidays. I can’t fault “fans” for doing it, but that doesn’t make it right. I posted one of my tickets for sale to a BUCS FAN ONLY and had a Bills fan offer me double the price. I politely said that I’d rather give it away free to a homeless man wearing a Bucs shirt outside of the stadium than sell it to a Bills fan. If I sell one of my tickets, Id make damn sure that a Bucs fan would be sitting in that seat if I’m not there. But that’s just me, I guess.
The Injuries; Again
It seems like this has been a neverending battle for the Bucs this season. They get a guy back healthy, and one or two guys get hurt. In this game, they got Richard Sherman back, but Jamel Dean left the game with an “illness“, and Giovanni Bernard left the game with a hip injury that has now put him on the IR. I mean, at some point, it has to stop, right?
The Second Half
As good as the first half was for Bucs fans, the second half was equally bad. After outgaining the Bills 303-158 and outscoring them 24-3 in the first half, the Bills outgained the Bucs 302-110 and outscored them 24-3 in the second half. Tampa Bay gave up 17 points in the 4th quarter, which led to the tie game and eventual overtime. It was a total team collapse in that second half where the defense couldn’t get off the field, and the offense couldn’t stay on it. It was the kind of half that good teams shouldn’t have, and great teams never have. This Bucs team just isn’t quite there yet.
This game gave Bucs fans a glimpse of what this team can be in the first half and then slapped us back to reality in the second. The Bucs FINALLY played up to their capabilities, at least for 30 minutes anyway, and it showed us what is possible for this team when they do. The Bills were a quality opponent that the Bucs just manhandled in the first half. Then they got cocky. They thought they had the game in the bag, and they let their foot off the gas. You can’t do that in the NFL, especially against a good team. But the Bucs did, and the Bills fought back and took them to overtime. Luckily, the defense stepped up in OT and got the big stop to give Tom Brady the back to do his thing.
THE PLAYOFF PICTURE
With Green Bay winning and Arizona losing, the Bucs are tied with both of them with a 10-3 record. The last time the Bucs were 10-3; was in 2002 when they won the Super Bowl. Even though all three have the same record, Green Bay has the #1 seed because they have a better conference record. The Bucs are now the #2 seed, with Arizona at the #3 spot. If the Bucs win out: they will be guaranteed no lower than that #2 seed, which means they’ll have two home playoff games. That hasn’t happened since the 1979 season. If the Bucs win out and Green Bay loses a game, then Tampa Bay would take over that #1 seed, giving them a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Bucs have a chance at clinching the NFC South division title on Sunday versus the Saints for the first time since 2007. Luckily for the Bucs, they have the easiest remaining schedule out of all 32 teams, according to Tankathon.com.
This was a nice win for the Bucs. It proved how good they are capable of playing when they play to their potential, but it also proved that they’re still not playing consistent enough football to just hand them a second straight Lombardi Trophy. They need to play smarter. They need to play more physically. They need to play faster. They need to play better. And they need to play a full 60 minutes. If and when they can do that, there’s not a team in the league that will be able to compete with them. Hopefully, they can do that on Sunday against the Saints.
Until then, as always, GO BUCS!!! Written by Jonathan Hinkle