Bucs sit atop the NFC South
Tampa Bay hosted Atlanta in a week five divisional matchup with first place in the NFC South on the line and with five weeks in the books the Bucs lead the pack. The media will, no doubt and rightfully so, be a blaze over a very questionable late game penalty, but you can’t apologize for a victory.
Last week saw the Bucs abandon the run game, for the first time this season. Throughout most of the game Tampa had negative total yards rushing as a team, Leonard Fournette finished the day with more yards receiving than rushing. Simultaneously, against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa’s offense had its most productive game. They broke 30 points on the scoreboard and looked like themselves. There was a lot of buzz around the potential new look offense of the 2022 Bucs after week one when Tampa Bay revealed their new commitment to the run game. Atlanta’s defense has not been stout against the run this season and the matchup seemed to lend itself toward the Bucs reestablishing their running game, still they elected to allow Tom Brady to toss the ball 52 times in a game where Leonard Fournette carried the ball for four yards per carry.
Any time the Bucs play there are certain expectations of the team as well as the players on the field. Sometimes the reality agrees with the expectation other times the reality is something else entirely, here’s:
Who we thought would do well and did:
Chris Godwin- The Bucs star receiver has had an understandably slow start to the season, coming off a major knee injury and struggling through a hamstring injury at the same time. Godwin has a lot of career highlights against the Atlanta Falcons and he treated Bucs fans to a few more this week. Six catches for 61 yards helped the Bucs offense to get out to a big 21-0 lead.
Antoine Winfield Jr.- The safety continues to shine in Todd Bowles’ defense. He is aggressive to the football and easily the most consistent tackler the Bucs have on their defense. This game wasn’t even near Winfield Jr.’s best but his performance still merits him recognition. His stat line speaks volumes about his versatility, picking up a team leading nine total tackles and a strip sack.
Who we thought would do well and didn’t:
The Bucs run defense- Tampa Bay’s once vaunted run defense is not to be feared until they show otherwise. The Falcons are a good running team, however, without Cordarrelle Patterson and pitted against a one dimensional team the Bucs defense missed a chance to reassert themselves as a dominant force versus the run. Atlanta’s offense gashed the Bucs’ defense for over 150 yards on the ground.
Who we thought might struggle and didn’t:
Scotty Miller- Miller has a very up and down Bucs career. Highs of a superstar that most NFL players will never know, coupled with the lows of an undersized sixth round pick out of Bowling Green. Scotty Miller has had somewhat of a rough go of it this season, but today he made the most of his opportunities. When he was targeted and it was his time to step in and step up he didn’t drop the ball or trip and fall, Miller was able to contribute to a Bucs offense that looked fluid and in sync for a large portion of the game.
Surprise of the game:
Cade Otton- The rookie tight end was drafted with the 106 overall pick in this past year’s draft. With fan favorite Rob Gronkowski, leaving the team for his second retirement, the tight end room was left with big shoes to fill. The team has taken a committee approach thus far this season but this week with Cameron Brate out, Cade Otton saw an uptick in reps. Otton provided healthy production, catching six passes. The rookie presented himself very well, showing he can be relied upon to be a consistent target for Tom Brady.
Leonard Fournette- In nearly every game this season the Bucs have made a concerted effort to feature Fournette. He has been given at least 15 touches in all but one game this year. Those touches haven’t always resulted in the huge explosive plays Bucs fans would like, but Leonard Fournette has remained consistent behind an offensive line that has had its difficulties through the season. ‘Lenny’ was a workhorse for the Bucs today with 139 yards from scrimmage and the only two touchdowns Tampa scored in the game.
Carlton Davis (Hip): Did not return
Sean Murphy-Bunting (Quad): Did not return
Mike Edwards (N/A)
3-2 is not a bad place for Tampa Bay to be in after a challenging start to their schedule, but the team needs to lock in on an identity. They are, and have been, built to play a certain way. Changing that way is always an option but might not be the best option. This week, Tampa was able to move the ball through the air, leaving the run game behind as an afterthought for the second straight week. This approach created a huge lead for the Bucs but left them bogged down and unable to find their footing in the fourth quarter. Next week the Bucs will face the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. The Steelers are coming off of a blowout loss, will Tampa Bay’s offense finally hone in on an identity next week in the steel city?