October MVP: Mason Foster
It’s tough to find bright spots in Tampa’s October but if you look hard enough you’ll find Mason Foster, the rookie out of Washington. He’s quickly becoming a staple of this defense as he embodies it’s ‘Yungry’ attitude and it’s flashes of potential. Foster isn’t leading in tackles anymore but he’s all over the place. He has 22 tackles, 10 assists and has a forced fumble to his credit. Foster has had his bad games, but for a first year starter at a position like middle linebacker, Foster is only going to get better.
The Bucs got a little big headed in September and that reared it’s ugly head in October. The Bucs came into the month with just one loss and we under the influence (as was I) of the 3-1 record. But reality soon kicked in and we were reminded of just how young, inexperienced, and unaccomplished this team really is.
It all started with trouble in paradise: Tampa on Monday Night Football. The Bucs beat the still win-less Colts but it’s the closest the Colts have been to winning all season long. Tampa was losing most of the game and never really kicked it into gear until LeGarrette Blount stormed into the endzone to punctuate another Josh Freeman comeback win. We were all still blinded by success but many started to see the cracks in the mold and stopped drinking the Kool-Aid.
That was a feeling that was felt Bucs nation-wide the following week when the Bucs suffered their worst loss since 1999 and tied thier franchise worst in terms of a deficit. The 49ers pounded the Bucs into the ground and into submission very early and the Bucs are still hurting. Blount has been out since that game as has Gerald McCoy. Josh Freeman had his worst performance of the year to that point and Tampa didn’t get into the endzone once. Their only points cam in the first half while all 48 of the 49ers points were evenly spread throughout the blow out.
But then the Bucs did what they usually do: they bounced right back. The following week the hosted the new Orleans Saints and not only showed up the whole game, but beat the Saints to capture first place. The big story was the return of Tanard Jackson to the lineup and he made his presence known intercepting Drew Brees in what would end up being a three turnover game in Tampa. This was the Bucs team we were all expecting in San Francisco and for the most part two weeks prior on Monday Night. This game and then the following game in London are prime examples of just how schizophrenic this team really is.
Which, of course, brings us to the London game. Fresh off a great divisional win and in first place, the Bucs stunk it up across the pond getting blown away by the Chicago Bears. Josh Freeman had another terrible game tossing four interceptions, all on potential scoring drives. Tampa only had 5 points for a majority of the game and gave Matt Forte further reason to get a new contract. It was sloppy play all over for the Bucs and sunk them back into second place int he South. Had it not been for the St. Louis Rams giving the Bucs an early Christmas present in beating the Saints, Tampa would be almost two games back of the Saints.
Instead, they enter Sunday’s matchup where they were two weeks ago in Tampa: facing the Saints with first place on the line. This time it’s in New Orleans and not only are the Saints looking for revenge for their defeat two weeks ago, but they’ll be a little motivated by getting trounced by the then win-less Rams last week.
It’s going to be the start of a rough, rough month for the Bucs that sees matchups in New Orleans, in Green Bay against the first place undefeated Packers and then in Tampa against the first place Houston Texans. We will truly see what kind of Buccaneers team we are dealing with come the start of December. Not only will we have a good grasp on the identity of this team, but we may also know whether or not Tampa is even in the playoff hunt come December.
Tampa needs to look back on October and realize what they did wrong (against the Colts, 49ers and Bears) and what they did right (coming back against the Colts, beating the Saints). It’s a tough stretch ahead, but I’m confident that this team will not get shut out. The problem is, in the NFC South, winning just one game in November won’t cut it.
Stats Leaders (As of 10/31/11)
Passing: Josh Freeman – 166/270, 1723yds, 7TD-10INT
Rushing: LaGarrette Blount – 77car, 328yds, 3TD, 0Fum
Receiving: Mike Williams - 31rec, 317yds, 1TD
Tackles: Sean Jones – 44tkls, 39solo, 5asst, 1.0 sacks
Sacks: Adrian Clayborn – 3.0 sacks
Interceptions: Tanard Jackson – 2INT
Kicking: Connor Barth – 13/15 FG, 12/12 XP
Punting: Michael Koenen – 35 Punts, 1622yds 15Punts In20
Kick Return: Preston Parker – 13Ret, 262yds, 0TD