By Leo Haggerty


Made if down to Bucs practice on Friday.  Had a chance to fire some questions off to HC Bruce Arians and CB Pierre Desir.  Below are their answers to my queries.

LH : Stats can be deceiving.  You’re #3 against the run and #30 against the pass.  You are so good stopping the run that teams are forced to throw it 40 or more times.  A quarterback on a bad day will connect on 20 and, if they’re having a good day, close to 30 or more.  Does your pass defense get a bad rap because of that?

BA : We don’t really care about that part of it, it’s about points. Right now, we’re giving up too many points. We want to keep people to 17 or less, and the biggest statistic we look for is points per game. We do take a lot of pride in stopping the run, but when they throw it 50 times, yeah, there are going to be some yards. But we’ve got to keep them out of the end zone.

LH : The secondary was being held together by a band aid up in New England.  Would you have been in trouble if Richard Sherman or Pierre Desir, who were the corners most of the second half, had gone down?

BA : No, Dee Delaney is ready to go and Rashard Robinson, he’s been here long enough. So, we’ve got enough guys. Todd has done a good job of getting them, and Kevin Ross, all prepared and ready to go.

LH : Were you the most surprised person when Tom Brady scrambled for a first down in New England?

BA : I loved the look on his face, that’s for sure.

LH  : On Tryon’s sack, Vea eliminated two blockers and created a clear path for him to the quarterback.  Was that fun to watch on film?

BA : Yeah, not everybody can close the gap as fast as Joe did, but Vita should get at least half a sack for that one.

LH : Late in the game, you jumped one of the routes.  Were you thinking interception or just knock it down?

PD : Interception.  I was definitely thinking interception.  They ran the same route twice so I said to myself that, if they run it again, I’m going to jump it. It’s a calculated risk but, as a DB, you have to have confidence in yourself.  I believed I could make the play so I jumped it when I saw it.

On Sunday, Tampa Bay, behind five touchdown passes by quarterback Tom Brady, pulled away from Miami in the fourth quarter to post a 45-17 victory at Raymond James Stadium.  The win moved the Buccaneers to 4-1 and sole possession of first place in the National Football League South Division one game ahead of Carolina and New Orleans.  The loss dropped the Dolphins to 1-4 and that puts the Fins three games behind the AFC East leading Buffalo Bills.

The Fish dented the scoreboard first at 11:17 of the first period.  After taking the opening kickoff, Miami went 70 yards in eight plays that took 3:43 culminating in a 23 yard field goal by Jason Sanders.  That gave the Dolphins an early 3-0 advantage.

The Pewter Pirates answered that score immediately at 7:04 of the opening stanza.  QB Tom Brady (30-of-41 for 411 yards and 5 TD) found RB Giovani Bernard (2 for 14 yards and 1 TD) on a circle route just short of the end zone and #25 bullied his way to pay dirt.  The drive took 4:13 to traverse 80 yards in eight plays.  K Ryan Succop booted the PAT and the Buccaneers took their first lead at 7-3.

Miami came right back to put up more points at 3:16 of the first quarter.  QB Jacoby Brissett (27-of-39 for 275 yards and 2 TD plus 1 INT) found a wide open RB Miles Gaskins (10 for 74 yards and 2 TD) behind the Bucs defenders down the left sideline for a 24 yard catch and run.  The touchdown finished off an eight play drive that travelled 75 yards in 3:48.  Sanders converted the extra point and the Dolphins retook the lead at 10-7.

Tampa Bay added to their total at 14:06 of the second period.  Succop drilled a 42 yard field goal that ended a 10 play drive that took 4:10 to go 51 yards knotting the score at 10 all.

The Buccaneers broke the tie at 11:01 of the second quarter.  After forcing the first punt of the contest, Brady found WR Antonio Brown (7 for 124 yards and 2 TD) on a short crossing route and #81 did the rest outracing the Dolphin defenders down the left sideline for a 62 yard touchdown.  That drive took only 1:34 to go 70 yards in three plays.  Succop was true with the PAT and Tampa Bay moved ahead 17-10.

After stopping the Dolphins on their ensuing possession, the Bucs extended their advantage with 1:48 left before halftime.  Again, it was Brady to Brown this time with a 4 yard aerial.  That closed out a 13 play drive that went 77 yards consuming 6:19.  Succop was perfect with the extra point and Pewter Pirates extended their lead to 24-10 going into intermission.

Miami was the first team to change the score after halftime at 6:56 of the third period.  After making the Bucs punt for the first time in the game, the Fins moved 87 yards in 11 plays using 5:52 of clock time with Brissett connecting with a wide open Gaskins.  Sanders hit the PAT and the Dolphins moved to within a score at 24-17.

Tampa Bay wasted no time stretching out their lead at 14:57 of the final period.  RB Leonard Fournette (12 for 67 yards and 1 TD) rambled five yards to culminate a 13 play drive that chewed up 6:59 traversing 75 yards.  Succop again provided the extra point and the Buccaneers went up 31-17.

The Pewter Pirates scored again at 11:49 of the fourth quarter.  Brady hit WR Mike Evans (6 for 113 and 2 TD) with a 34 yard missile ended a 4 play drive that went 61 yards in 2:10.  Succop drilled the PAT and the Bucs extended their margin to 38-17.

After a interception by CB Jamel Dean, Tampa Bay put up the final points of the afternoon with 8:57 left in regulation.  Again, Brady found Evans, this time with a 23 pass, that finished off a short three play drive that took 1:50 to go 41 yards.  Succop split the uprights to make the final arithmetic 45-17 in favor of the Bucs.

Had a chance to talk with HC Bruce Arians and a plethora of Buccaneer players that included OL Shaq Barrett and WR Antonio Brown plus QB Tom Brady along with CB Jamel Dean.  There answers, and some are a bit comical as you will see, are below.

LH : Today, with the injuries to players in the back end, your secondary was being held together by a band aid.  How proud he was of the secondary performance in today’s game)

BA : Extremely. I think Todd gets all the credit in the world. I told our pass-rush they need to get in the weight room. Shit they had him wrapped up about five times and couldn’t get him on the ground. Jacoby’s strong. We harassed him, but we need to get those sacks and finish those things. You know got a couple big turnovers and again, we protected the ball offensively. Situational football.  I would have loved to have seen Pinion make that 60-yard field goal.

LH : Are there are any signs that  a 33-yaer old Antonio Brown has even lost a step?

BA : Probably in the 40.  A half a step but not in quickness. When he catches a ball, he’s so sudden. When you’re catching a drag route and you can turn straight north, you’re going to lose that guy behind you. There are very, very few guys who can do what he does.

LH : You score on every first half possession except a 60 yard field goal attempt right before halftime.  Is that how the offense is suppose to work?

BA : Yeah, hopefully, every single week. Really wanted to see Pinion make that field goal.

LH : It looks like the injury bug has bit the defense extremely hard this yard.  How hard is it to get continuity on the defense with so many players rotating in and out of the lineup?

SB : It’s a little harder when we get to the middle of a game and someone is thrown in there like that, but in practice, we work on it a lot in practice when we know someone is going to be out or down. We work on our communication. We work on everything that needs to be worked on in practice. But in the middle of the game we still threw “Mint” in there. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s been around for a while. He knows our system through and through. He was able to come in and make some plays for us to help us seal the game.

LH ; On your second touchdown, coming out of the bunch formation, it look like a perfect combination.  You undercut everyone, correct?

AB : Yes.

LH : Even though you’re 33 years old, nobody is going to catch you from behind, are they?

AB : Hopefully not.

LH : For three games, have you become a scrambling machine?

TB : I know.  Do I look faster? I mean I feel fast, do I look as fast as I feel?

LH : Are you going to ask Byron for some designed QB run plays to take advantage of his scrambling?

TB : Some QB outside pitches. (Laughter) I’ll leave those to the guys who are much more talented than me. Most of the guys in the NFL probably make like 30 yards on a run like that.  I turned a 30-yarder into a 10-yarder better than anybody, but it was good.

LH : With your front seven playing so well against the run, do you have to anticipate a pass every play?

JD : Yes, we do.  We have to anticipate pass and the quick game every play.

LH : Take us through your interception.  Were you in zone or man?

JD : It was in zone. So, I was just reading the quarterback and once he threw the ball, I ran to it and realized the receiver tipped it. So, I was like, “I can’t miss this one.” I’ve had two layups so I can’t miss both.

Now, the Buccaneers face a daunting task.  Tampa Bay has to travel to Philadelphia to take on a Eagles team that just beat Carolina 21-18 for a Thursday night tilt.

Three games in 11 days with a 44 year old quarterback and not playing well last year in Chicago in their 2020 Thursday night appearance.  Join me at the TV then to see how the Bucs fare.