Week 1 didn’t go so well for Tampa, as Tom Brady’s first game in a Bucs uniform ended in a big time loss to a division rival. The offense looked like they did not have a full training camp while the Saints looked like a well oiled machine.
Most of the headlines were about how head coach Bruce Arians called out Tom for his subpar play, and for good reason. Comments from offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich stated the run game had to be better and that without WR Chris Godwin, they would need another WR to step up this week against Carolina to get themselves in the win column this season. The defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said that they need to create more turnovers for their offense in the past week as well.
Starting off week 2, it was noticeable from the beginning that the Bucs wanted to establish the run game. They started off using Ronald Jones early in the game, and Leonard Fournette could only get touches when he was tired. Tampa could run the ball consistently because their defense stifled Christian McCaffrey and executed their game plan early on
WR Mike Evans looked like the elite wideout he has shown in the past by just dominating the game from the start. Brady is a QB who will only throw it to who he trusts, so it was good to see that Evans has earned a bit of trust from Brady after an extremely lackluster game last week. Carolina had no answer when they lined him up out wide, and could only hope for him to drop it if it was thrown to him.
To shift sides, their defense looked amazing in the first half, shutting out Carolina. They did as DC Todd Bowles wanted them to do going forward, which is to create takeaways. A couple of picks and fumble recoveries slowed down the Panthers and made them adjust their gameplan to be able to score the ball.
Going into the second half, Teddy Bridgewater played poorly and it was not all his fault necessarily. Tampa’s defensive line applied pressure all game, and stopping CMC is a great start to any defense going up against Carolina. Everything was going well for Tampa until Ronald Jones and Tom Brady had a mishap on a handoff and fumbled the ball.
Once Tampa fumbled, you saw a lot more Fournette when it came to running the ball. Lesean McCoy got some reps as well, mainly as a pass catcher but that did not go well as he dropped some key passes, including a late TD that would have sealed the game. It would be a fair assumption that he won’t be getting many reps next week after a poor performance from him and such a stunning performance for Fournette. Fournette ended the game with 12 carries, 103 yards, and 2 TDs.
In the postgame interviews, Fournette kept reiterating that the team was very new and it would take time for them to get to know each other. Evans let the media know he still isn’t satisfied with the overall team play, as he stated that you can’t get too high or too low in this league, alluding to the fact that they just got beat down by the Saints the week prior.
Head coach Bruce Arians also pointed to the fact that the turnovers were the biggest change from this week to last week. Brady with his usual answers just stated that the team could get better and needs to improve in all areas.
My main takeaway from this game is that the Bucs defense has to be taken seriously. A lot of media started to pick up on them later on last season, but they did not get as much attention because they didn’t have the hype behind them as they do now. If this team gets out to a lead, this opportunistic defense will be able to maintain that lead throughout the season.
Also, I think it is only a matter of time before RoJo sees his touches decrease as Fournette becomes the bell-cow back once he’s more acclimated with the system.
Brady also threw another pick this game when he sailed a ball over Rob Gronkowski’s head. This interception shows me that the team still needs more time to figure each other out and once the timing of routes gains more traction, this offense will be as explosive as it was hyped up to be. Lastly, I’m not sure how much time Shady McCoy has on the roster with his play thus far.