The Buccaneers are sitting pretty ahead of their matchup tonight.
With only one month worth’s of games to be played, the Buccaneers exactly where they want to be; leading the NFC South Division with a chance to clinch against their toughest rival.
It is a dream season with a game to pave the way for their next Super Bowl run. At 10-3, it is highly unlikely that any team left in the division has a real shot at catching the Bucs.
While the Saints hang on to a glimmer of hope, even should they win Sunday night, it’s highly unlikely that the Bucs would lose out in the final three games and thereby yield the crown to New Orleans.
Besides winning the division, Tampa has a lot to prove in this game. They need to shake that Cajun voodoo off and really open some eyes. It’s past time for Tampa to be Tampa and play a full game against a good defense. It seems every time the Bucs get on a roll, they put up a bummer game.
And you can say, well a win’s a win, but the truth is it is not. At this time of the season, the “really good teams” put an imprint on their lesser opponents, thereby setting the stage for the end of the regular season and sending a message to any teams that might stray this way in the playoffs.
It’s called setting a tone. It’s when a team with a winning culture does the necessary in order to let the rest of the league know what’s coming. To sort of paraphrase the Barbarian, it is the time “to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their” fanbase! Is there no better feeling than listening to the losers complain about the officiating?
Whining about a missed holding call, or a lineman leaving early, or even the lowly false start and believing that somehow, someway that missed call spelled doom for their team in this game or that. Did Antoine Winfield Jr. hold on the pass he knocked down on the two-point conversion attempt against the Giants last year? Wasn’t it holding in half a dozen plays against the Bills last weekend? How can it be, in this day of instant replay, that we can’t take the time to go back and get the call right? And yet, sometimes they do.
For eons, it has always been the losing team’s fault for allowing a game to be so closely contested that a simple mistake on a play call could lead to a team’s demise. We tend not to think about our own holding call that nullifies a 68-yard touchdown, and favor the idea that some touch foul was more the issue.
Teams need to play well enough that a bad call doesn’t in truth determine the winner or the loser. In soccer, they have the expression “the ball is round” which means that sometimes the calls go your way and you are on top of the ball and sometimes you are under the ball. While there is nothing roundabout a football besides its circumference, the same sentiment prevails. If you play long enough, the good and bad calls even out.
With the Saints this week, Tampa needn’t worry about what the Saints can do on defense or offense. They merely have to mind their own business while on the field. Play the best they can on offense to maximize the time of possession and score, and give the defense time to rest between intervals. Sure, it sounds simple enough. Tom Brady along with his cast of characters: Leonard Fournette, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Tyler Johnson, Rob Gronkowski, Cam Brate, and others, simply need to play pitch and catch. Run the routes they are given and make the plays when they have a chance.
That’s what happened to Breshad Perriman, whose career had been tossed onto the junk pile of former players until the Bucs picked him back up and dusted him off. Perriman took a bit of time to figure out what happened, much as Sherman often wondered what was going on when Mr. Peabody called out “Drizzle, Drazzle, Druzzle, Drome; Time for this one to come” instantly fetching Sherman back to the current time via the Way Back Machine.
For all intent and purposes, Perriman’s career was over. Most players dumped from teams, like the Jets and the Bears, would have just hung up their jock-straps (you can change it to cleats if you want to) and called it a career. But the Bucs remembered how Perriman came through for them when both Evans and Godwin were down. How he had performed like a WR1, and what drove the Jets to offer him a $3 million deal before they decided to let him go. And like a few other current Buccaneers, the sweet, South Florida air revived the player. If Perriman never catches another pass in the NFL, he will always have that highlight walk-off TD against the Bills.
And that’s what needs to happen Sunday against the Saints. The Bucs, the real Bucs, must stand up and be accounted for. Brady needs to open it up: get Evans over 1,000 yards for yet another season, add another dozen touches for Godwin, let Fournette tear up the turf for 100 and a TD, and don’t forget about Robbie G, as if he could.
Tampa needs to win the division and do so in rare form. Set the tone on offense and defense, and let the rest of the NFL know what’s coming in these final regular season spats and then the playoffs. The Bucs need to play hard, and then “listen to the lamentations” of the “Who Dat” nation.
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