Buc Up!…with Rob Kriete – JANUARY 2
has the 10-5 Bucs hosting the 4-11 Atlanta Falcons as these two division rivals square off for the second time in three weeks. Tom Brady led the Bucs to a huge come-from-behind victory in Atlanta in Week 15. Tampa will look to tune up the offense and solidify the defense on Sunday, at least for the first half, I expect.
at least four teams every season have qualified for the NFL playoffs after failing to qualify for the playoffs the previous year. Count the Buccaneers for this season. In fact, it has been 13 long years since Tampa Bay has made the playoffs.
Bucs QB Tom Brady
passed for 348 yards and four TDs for 158.3 rating in Week 16, his 3rd-career game with 158.3 rating, the highest attainable mark. The amazing part is that #12 accomplished that in just 30 minutes of play. Tom now has the Tampa Bay franchise-record with 36 TD passes in 2020.
Leo Haggerty, spoke with Tampa Bay Head Coach Bruce Arians again this week:
Leo Haggerty: “With no OTAs or training camp or preseason reps, would you say your offense is about at week eight or nine when it comes to repetitions?”
Bruce Arians: “Yeah, probably. It’s probably around midseason. Maybe 8 or 9. We’ve got the things now where we don’t have to answer those questions like is it Tom’s offense or is it my offense?’ It’s the Bucs’ offense and it’s pretty good.
Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans
had ten catches for 181 yards and two TDs last week against the Lions and now own the Buccaneer season franchise-record with 13 receiving TDs this season. Mike needs 40 receiving yards to become the first player in NFL history with 1,000+ receiving yards in each of his first seven seasons.
-Leo spoke with Bucs RB Leonard Fournette who has four rushing TDs in his past four games for Tampa Bay. Leo asked, “In the NFL today, you can’t just be a running back. You have to be able to catch and block. How proud are you of your ability to catch and block and pass protect?”
Leonard Fournette: “It’s a big job. A big job now. My rookie year I came in just running the ball. Even in college. In college, most guys aren’t used to blocking or catching. I think it was a surprise to me to let a guy beat me one-on-one. That’s all I got to say. You got a million dollar guy back there in Tom Brady that you don’t want to let him get hurt. Then you got everyone looking at you crazy like it’s your fault. It’s a matter of pride. I try do a great job at it now. It’s a five-second fight. A five-second fight that you just have to win it. Give it your all. At first, I wasn’t too good at it but, over the years, I prepare myself to get better as a blocker and it’s panned out.”
-On defense, the Bucs linebacker Lavonte David had another forced fumble last week against Detroit. Lavonte is the only player with 20 or more forced fumbles (23) and ten or more interceptions (11) since 2013.
-Jordan Whitehead, Tampa safety, has two interceptions this season and was interviewed by Leo this week:
-Leo Haggerty: “You’re a WPIAL guy in high school and stay close to home to go to Pittsburgh. That’s some big-time football in Western Pennsylvania, isn’t it?”
Jordan Whitehead: “Oh, definitely. I’ve been going since I was five growing up. Football has always been a thing.”
Leo Haggerty: “You’re the old man with the safeties now with Winfield coming in. You have to mentor the rookie. How is that going?
Jordan Whitehead: “Antoine is really smart and he picks up everything fast. He listens. He’s a great player and he’s always looking to get better so it’s not too hard coaching him up. We have a good group of guys in the safety room and a great coach. We just have to make sure that we’re all on the same page. He asks us if we need anything all the time. Playing with him out there is a lot of fun because he’s a great kid. He’s always energetic and smiling. It’s fun to be out there and make some plays out there with him.”
-For Atlanta, running back Todd Gurley had 50 yards from scrimmage yards last week. Todd has rushed for five TDs in four career games against Tampa.
-Falcons WR Calvin Ridley had 130 receiving yards last week and now has eight games with 100 or more receiving yards in 2020, most in NFL. Calvin aims for his fourth game in a row with a receiving TD.
-Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones has 102 tackles marking his fourth career 100 tackle season.
-The Falcons have played better under former-Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, but many close games have not yielded many wins. The Bucs have played their best football of the season since a loss to the Chiefs and will look to this game as a tune-up for the playoffs. Expect Tom Brady and most of the offense to play the first half before the backups take over. Defensively, Coach Bowles must continue to mix and match opportune times for blitz packages as playoff opponents will look to capitalize on Tampa’s aggressive approach. Against the Falcons in a game that does not hold significant meaning for either team, I expect a relatively close game with Tampa Bay earning their eleventh victory of the season. Next week, playoff preview! Happy New Year!
-Thank you to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the use of some pictures in this column.
Prediction: Bucs 27 – Falcons 24