By Leo Haggerty


This week, I was able to attend all three practices.  On Friday, had a chance to ask a handful of questions to HC Bruce Arians.  His responses are below to my queries.

LH : You’re running that Z Screen to Godwin almost like it’s a trick play.  You’re asking him to trust the guys in front of him to block so he can catch it without being blown up and almost all the time that’s a wide receiver.  How important is their blocking to the success of the play?

BA : Oh, there’s doubt. Mike, or whoever the receiver is blocking, that’s the key block.  Then, getting those linemen out there. But Chris is so quick to the tuck, that’s why he’s so good at it.

LH : From a defensive point of view, can Coach Bowles get anything out of the Monday night game the Bills had with New England?

“Nothing. Nothing. You go back and look at all the other teams that were closer to you and the games that they played. Todd has got a great bead on them, and the same thing defensively.

LH : Josh Allen is a big strong athletic quarterback.  What problems does that pose for your defense

BA : You just named a bunch of them, plus he can throw the shit out of it. He’s got great weapons around him too. There’s no play that’s ever over until the ball is tackled. Brian Daboll does a great job of his quarterback runs and he likes it. Some quarterbacks don’t like that; he likes it, and it shows the way he plays

LH : On the first series in Atlanta, 13 straight pass plays.  Is that how it was scripted?

BA : It’s just how it went. We had four or five runs called and they weren’t very good runs so Tom got us in a better play.

LH : Looks like it will be 85 degrees on Sunday.  Buffalo can’t prepare for that.  How much of an advantage is that for your guys?

BA : It should be beneficial to us. It’s going to be warm for them, that’s for sure. You can only turn the heat up in your building so high without dehydrating everybody. I’ve been down that road, too. So yeah, it’s nice to have home field advantage.

Now, let me backtrack to Thursday and The Outback Bowl Signing Party.  Had a chance to talk with both coaches but specifically wanted to chat with Penn State HC James Franklin who coached Chris Godwin in college.  Below is his answer to my question about #14 and his very informative as well as insightful answer.

LH : Chris Godwin is, arguably, the best Z receiver in the National Football League.  What was he like at Penn State?

JF : Yeah, I’m not surprised with the success Chris is having.  Obviously, Chris had tremendous ball skills and body control.  Big, strong, fast but he also had a maturity to him very early on.  He can play any of the three positions.  It came very naturally to him.  He has a very, very high football IQ.  He was focused on school and football without a whole lot of distractions.  Had the same girlfriend in high school.  Had the same girlfriend in college.  He’s married to her now.  That’s, actually, is the daughter of his high school coach.  Chris was always very focused and very disciplined.  Knew what he wanted and how he was going to do it.  Literally, he’s a pro’s pro.  Not a whole lot of distractions off the field.  He handles his business.  If you ever spend some time with him, he is star and buttoned-up and polished and polite.  He’s a star and he’s a stud and I’m not surprised one bit by the success that he has had.  I thought it was, also, another good example of how smart he really is.  Tom Brady says I’d like your jersey and he says here, Tom, take it, take it.  He’s just one of those guys, he just gets it.  He gets the big picture.  He’s going to be a great teammate.  He’s going to be a playmaker but he’s also going to be a great ambassador to not only Penn State but, obviously, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  From everything you know about Tom Brady and what you read about Tom Brady, there’s a comfort with a quarterback with a guy like Chris Godwin.  You know what you’re going to get from him, day in and day out and game in and game out.  He’s just so reliable.  I’m just not surprised with the success that he’s had on and off the field.

Before I start coverage of the tilt, I must announce that, for the first time in almost two years, we were able to get a photo journalist into a Bucs home game.  All in game photos are courtesy of our crack photo journalist Steve Jacobson who, as you can see, hasn’t missed a beat due to the Covid layoff.  Enjoy.

Tampa Bay, after sprinting to a 24-3 halftime lead and watching Buffalo come back in the second half to tie the score at 27 at the end of regulation, scored in overtime to secure a hard-fought 33-27 victory.  The win advanced the Buccaneers to 10-3 keeping them four games in front of Atlanta and New Orleans in the National Football Conference South Division.  The loss dropped the Bills to 7-6 and that leaves the Upstate New York Gang two games behind New England in the American Football Conference East Division.

Buccaneers scored first at 8:13 of the opening period.  After an exchange of punts, RB Leonard Fournette (19 for 113 yards and 1 TD) rambled off left guard and cut back across the grain to scamper 47 yards to the end zone.  That culminated a 67 yard drive that took 1:42 and five plays.  K Ryan Succop was true with the conversion and the Pewter Pirates took an early 7-0 lead.

Tampa Bay padded their lead at 13:36 of the second quarter.  Succop drilled a 23 yard field goal that finished off a 15 play drive that went 80 yards in 6:43 to push the Bucs lead to 10-zip.

The Bills finally got on the scoreboard at 9:28 of the second period.  K Tyler Bass booted a 21 yard field goal to cap a 4:08 drive that traversed 72 yards in seven plays.  That cut the Bucs margin to 10-3.

The Buccaneers answered that score with one of their own at 7:11 of the second quarter.  QB Tom Brady (31 of 46 for 363 Yards and 2 TD) found Mike Evans (6 for 91 and 1 TD), operating as the inside receiver in a trips set, with a perfectly thrown high ball over S Micah Hyde in the the back left corner of the end zone for a 13 yard strike.  That ended a 2:17 drive that took seven plays to travel 75 yards.  Succop hit the PAT and the Pewter Pirates moved out to a 17-7 advantage.

Tampa Bay increased their lead with 1:29 left in the first half.  Brady (7 for 16 yards and 1 TD) sneaked it across the goal line from a yard out.  That put to bed a 10 play drive that took 2:43 to move 72 yards.  Succop again provided the extra point stretching the Buccaneers lead to 24-3 and that was the arithmetic as the contest went to halftime.

After a Buffalo unsuccessful fake punt and the Bucs turning it over on downs, the Bills dented the scoreboard at 7:29 of the third period. QB Josh Allen (12 for 109 yards and 1 TD) scrambled 18 yards on a misdirection run to polish off an 81 yard drive that took nine plays and 3:40.  Bass was good with the conversion and the Bills cut into the Tampa Bay lead to the tune of 24-10.

The Buccaneers posted their first points of the second half at 11:24 of the final period.  After an 11 play drive that went 84 yards in 5:51, Succop split the uprights from 24 yards away.  That increased the margin to 27-10 but the Bills were far from out of this contest.

Buffalo cut the deficit at 9:07 of the fourth quarter.  Allen (36 of 54 for 308 and 2 TD plus 1 INT) found TE Dawson Knox (7 for 60 yards and 1 TD) over the middle with a 15 yard aerial.  That trimmed the Tampa Bay lead to 27-17.

The Bills got to within a score at 4:53 of the fourth period.  After forcing a Pewter Pirates punt, Allen connected with WR Gabriel Davis (5 for 43 yards and 1 TD) in the left corner of the end zone with a four yard TD toss.  That terminated a nine play drive that went 42 yards in nine plays taking 3:15.  Bass was good with the PAT and Buffalo climbed back into the tilt at 27-24.

The visitors came all the way to tie the score at 27 all 22 ticks left in regulation.  Bass banged home a 25 yard field goal to complete a 70 yard drive that took 14 plays and 2:43 to sent the tilt to extra football.

After forcing Buffalo to punt, the Buccaneers chalked up the win at 5:31 of overtime.  Brady found WR Breshad Perryman (1 for 58 yards and 1 TD) behind LB Tremaine Edmunds, in what appeared to be a busted coverage, on a short crossing route and #16 did the rest for a 58 yard catch-and-run to give the Pewter Pirates the win and giving a majority of the 65,655 fans something to cheer about.

Caught up with Arians and DE Shaquil Barrett plus Fournette as well as Perryman along with LB Devin White rounding out with Brady in the postgame interview room.  Below are their answers to my queries.

LH : You played Mahomes twice last and he’s elusive.  Allen is fast but he will run you over.  As a runner, Is that a whole different dynamic to deal with? 

BA : He’s more like Cam Newton, but with a bigger and stronger arm. We talked about the designed quarterback runs are tough. I wouldn’t put my quarterback in that much of harm’s way because he did get nicked up a little bit, but they did a heck of a job with it.

LH : You have maybe the be presnap read quarterbacks ever in Brady. I know this sounds simplistic, but is it six or less in the box run and seven or more in the box throw?

BA : That’s more complicated than that. That’s very simplistic.

On the Z screen to Godwin, Gronkowski obliterates a defender.  How nice is it to have player who is willing to sacrifice his body on the field?

BA : All of those guys do a great job, tackles, guards, everybody blocking for each other in those screens. Gronk did a hell of a block on that one.

LH : You want to try and keep the quarterback in the pocket, but Allen is fast enougt to get outside contain and big enough to bull his way though.  How tough an assignment was it to keep him contained?

SB : It’s tough.  You got to make sure you’re correct.  You have to come at the proper angles.  If you’re coming from the outside, he’ll still try to outrun you to the outside.  You have to play the upfield should but he’s still 240 pounds that you have to bring down.  It’s a tough job, regardless, but as long as we all pursue to the the ball and we’re hot on it.  We got it done a few times today.

LH : You’ve improved your pass catching ability this year to become an every down back.  How nice is it for you to not have to trot off the field every time it’s third-and-long?

LF : I’ve been an every-down back, to be honest. A lot of people talk about me catching, but I had receptions in Jacksonville.  Just coming here and playing with guys like Brady, Gronk, Mike, A.B., Chris, Cam, it’s a great feeling. We go out there each week, during practice, putting in the work. As you can see, it shows.

LH : Did you sneak a peek at the video board to find the defense after making the catch?

BP : Oh, definitely. Like at first, when I first caught it, that’s what made me put my arm back and stiff arm him because I peeked at the Jumbotron and from that point on I just bet on my speed.

LH : Did you earn your money today chasing Allen?

DW : Oh, man, that boy is fast.  I told him after the game that he’s fast, he’s fast.  At the end of the day, that’s what I’m out there for.  I’m fast too so, every time he got loose, I went out there and got him.

On the touchdown pass to Evans, he was the inside guy on the trips.  Did that give you a read that the safety would be man up on him?

TB : It’s a mismatch when anytime Mike is basically on anyone, without two people on him. Mike had one on him and that’s an advantage for us. I tried to throw it up nice and high for him, he’s one of the very few guys who can go up and make that play. He made a hell of a catch, so it was a sweet play by Mike.