Ugly last night. So many warts exposed. Let’s get to it and harp on a few.
Did The Bucs Defense Get Exposed Or Was This One Bad Game?
Look, Joe is not about to say the Bucs defense is bad, but man did it get slapped around by the Chiefs. In the first half, Pat Mahomes looked unstoppable. So did Travis Kelce.
It was like the Bucs never played these guys before, forget the Bucs had success against them.
Aside from two years ago when the Chiefs dropped 17 points on the Bucs in the first quarter and when the Saints led the Bucs 31-0 at halftime, the last time Joe saw an opponent just impose its will on a Bucs defense was the infamous Tennessee-Ready game. That’s when lousy Lovie Smith and his defense appeared fully blindsided by then-rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Oregon spread-option offense.
What made that loss even more galling was that Lovie allegedly had been scouting Mariota. The way the Bucs defense played in the Tennessee-Ready game, it was like the defense never practiced a snap against a spread-option or a running QB.
That’s where the similarities to yesterday end.
The Bucs have played Mahomes and Kelce and succeeded. Won a Super Bowl over them. Yet yesterday the Bucs never had an answer for Mahomes until it was too late and Kelce went nuts on them in the first half.
Joe wants to call this an aberration. But to prove that the Bucs need to start shutting down offenses again the way they did through the first three games. And here comes Mariota and the Dixie Chicks on Sunday.
Free The Offense
It’s pretty clear through damn near 25 percent of the season, the Bucs cannot run the ball. The Bucs gained — are you ready for this — three yards on the ground last night. Three!
Now part of this was the Bucs had to abandon running because they got behind so much and so quickly. The other was, well, the Bucs were moving the ball through the air.
Last week Bucs coach Todd Bowles vowed that backup running backs would be fed the ball, in part because Playoff Lenny was getting run into the ground … (and partly because Playoff Lenny had a terrible yards-per-carry average?)
Well, Rachaad White had six yards on three carries. Playoff Lenny had negative-three yards on three carries. Sneak Vaughn? He was MIA. He was on the active roster but never got a touch.
Per Father Dungy, by way of Chris Simms, both of NBC Sports, we learned Bowles doesn’t want to pass that much. Yet the Bucs cannot run. When the passing game was finally unshackled yesterday, the Bucs moved up and down the field almost as easily as the Chiefs.
Whether Bowles likes it or not, his first job is to win games. This offense is built to throw. So Bowles should follow what the talent dicates on offense. And the way to win most games with his personnel is to air it out.
We’ll see if Bowles still tries to ground and pound or if he follows his talent and lets them win games for him.
Health is Critical
With Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones and Russell Gage finally all on the field together, it demonstrated what this offense has the capability of doing. But can they stay healthy?
As Joe and most fans sort of suspected, Julio is a walking injury report. If Julio is able to play in 10 games this year that will be about right. He got hurt last night. But dang, if you hope to be a playoff team, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to bank on one of your best receivers?
The offense stunk the first three weeks partly because of who was not available. The offense got jump-started yesterday because of who was available.
Can the Bucs bank on most of these guys come November and December?
That’s the problem bringing in guys like Akiem Hicks and Julio. You just don’t know when they can get on the field of play.
Tom Brady Is Not Over The Hill
Playing behind a run-up-the-middle-on-first-down offense, almost started to show his age. Joe suspected it was that Brady missed foot-rubbing Rob Gronkowski.
Alas, Brady showed again last night that when you let the Bucs’ talented passing attack throw, Brady is still quite good. He connected on 39 of 52 throws for 384 yards, three touchdown passes and no picks.
Does that seem like an over-the-hill old man to you?
Next Three Games Offers Healing Time
Last night Joe was talking to Russell Gage and he noted that the offense, when it focused on passing, gave fans a taste of what it can be when everyone gets healthy.
Gage said the Bucs just have too much talent to look like the Chicago Bears, southside edition.
Joe believes the Bucs do have a shot of getting healed up while winning the next three games against Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Carolina. All three are vulnerable.
Joe just hopes Bowles allows offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich to be aggressive. This team has demonstrated it is lethal when turned loose.
This content was originally published here.