Okay, so you’re not going 16-0. Tom Brady’s probably not going to throw for more than 80 touchdowns this season. The defense may not resemble the 2002 Bucs. And the division isn’t going to be handed to you on a silver platter.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you (remember this article?).
I chuckled a week ago when I turned on the radio and heard experts across the country compare this Buccaneers team to the ’78 Steelers or the ‘89 49ers or the ‘92 Cowboys. Come on, really? You’re asking Tom Brady to just go into a brand new offense without any practice games with receivers he’s never played with before and just take out one of the best football teams in the league on the road? I mean, I know the guy may be the G.O.A.T and all, but Sweet Jesus, he’s not God. Sometimes we think he has superhuman powers, but maybe last Sunday was what people needed to see to realize he falls just short of that barometer.
Here’s something that may make Bucs fans feel a little more fuzzy inside: The 2002 Bucs, you know the team that finished 12-4 and held up a Lombardi at the end of the season, lost their opening game that year against…..wait for it….wait for it….the Saints! And that Saints team didn’t even make the postseason. That Bucs team, like this Bucs team, had to adapt to new players on their offense trying to learn a new scheme.
There’s a lot of overreaction in Tampa right now mixed in with some concerns that are legitimate. The expectations there may have been a little too high (understatement of the year) especially after the first drive. I predict this: That game will be the worst the Bucs offense looks all year. And another prediction: This Sunday will be the second-worst it looks all year.
It’s going to take time, people. These first four games are like preseason games that count. All across the NFL, teams and quarterbacks adapting to new schemes struggled. The teams that looked sharp were the ones who kept things status quo, like the Saints, who had pretty much the same team from a year ago.
Now what’s not an overreaction and should be something to be worried about is the offensive line. Donovan Smith could get Tom Brady killed before the end of the season. We may see Josh Rosen after all before Christmas rolls around. Smith was flat on his back more times than Donald Trump goes to his phone every day to tweet. Smith got completely steamrolled. And this is your left tackle? This is the guy that’s protecting the blind side of Tom Brady? That would be the thing sending nasty chills down my spine.
Tristan Wirfs didn’t look great, either, but it’s his first game. It’s expected. He’ll be fine, but he may have his growing pains that last until mid-season. But Smith is a few years in now.
The game went exactly how I thought. I didn’t think the Bucs would win and they didn’t. I figured Brady would have his good moments and bad ones, which he did (although I didn’t think he’d go Jameis Winston on us and throw a pick-6). I also figured the Bucs defense would struggle against Alvin Kamara, which as is the case with most teams that face Kamara, they did.
On the bright side, the Bucs seemed to have found their Julian Edelman. Scotty Miller is going to be a dangerous weapon that teams have to contend with as the year moves forward. He has everything Brady wants in a No. 3 receiver, and once Brady gets better rapport with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Miller will actually be an even bigger weapon as defenses will struggle to contain all the different targets on the field.
The next four games are opportunities for the Bucs defense to feast on some less-experienced quarterbacks than Drew Brees. They should have more success against Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock, Tyrod Taylor, and Mitch Trubisky/Nick Foles. They also should gel more offensively against those teams as they get more playing time under their belt. Heck, the Raiders just put up 34 on the Panthers with Derek Carr, Henry Ruggs III, and Darren Waller. That’s nowhere near what the Bucs have in Godwin, Evans, Gronk, Howard, and Miller.
So sit back, relax, and let things play out, Tampa fans. They’ll get things in cruise control within the next month. Now if they’re sitting at 2-3 or 1-4 after five games and the same mistakes are being made, then we’ll revisit this discussion. But I don’t expect it. Brady and Co. are getting ready to get the boat out of the mud and put it in high gear. You just need to give it some time.
They’ll see the Saints again.