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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fitzpatrick and the Bucs stun the Saints in 2018 opener

Roy Cummings



Sep 9, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) looks to throw against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

A few quick observations on the Buccaneers stunning season-opening 48-40 victory over the Saints while fantasy football fans everywhere scramble to add Ryan Fitzpatrick to their roster.

A lot is going to be made of the Bucs decision to change offensive play callers in the wake of this massive upset, but the Bucs won on Sunday because they EXECUTED the plays that were called to near perfection.

That’s not to take anything away from the play calls that coordinator Todd Monken made in place of head coach Dirk Koetter. But we simply have no way of knowing what plays Koetter would have called.

For that reason, there is no way to know if he would have called a significant number of plays differently than Monken. After all, it’s not like they would have been working off different play sheets.

There’s one game plan per game, it’s all produced by a committee of coaches and the small handful of plays that go on the play sheet are the plays that are called and often in conjunction with the quarterback’s wishes.

Whether the plays work or not usually comes down to execution, and on Sunday, the Bucs did an exquisite job of executing almost every play, whether it was in the pass game or the run game.

Fitzpatrick, for example, was about as close to perfect as a quarterback can be in helping the Bucs build a 31-24 first-half lead, completing 11 of 14 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns, no picks and a 158.3 passer rating.

Sep 9, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) scores past New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams (43) during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 9, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) scores past New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams (43) during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Fitzpatrick wasn’t quite as sharp in the second half, but he was on the mark when he had to be, hitting Mike Evans for 50 yards for one score and DeSean Jackson (again) for 58 more and another.

And let’s not forget what Peyton Barber did to help set up all those deep throws. Barber ran 19 times for 69 yards, and was strong almost from the outset, running 23 yards on a first-down to ignite the Bucs first scoring drive.

Something else to keep in mind is that the Bucs offensive line was superb. Fitzpatrick was hit a few times but for the most part the line gave him plenty of time to go through his progressions and find open receivers.

That’s a point that cannot be understated. Though he did a great job of making decisions, including when he was under pressure and had to run, Fitzpatrick under pressure is not a good option for the Bucs.

And while we’re on the subject of pressure, the Bucs defensive front didn’t provide a lot of it. They recorded just one sack and three QB hits, allowing Saints quarterback Drew Brees to pass for 439 yards.

But the line did apply enough pressure at key moments Sunday to force Brees into a few throwaways that proved critical when the game was still a tossup late in the first half and early in the second.

And kudos to the Bucs secondary. They spent most of the day playing off coverage, which is tough against a surgeon such as Brees, but they largely kept the ball in front of them and didn’t allow a lot of yards after the catch.

Even better was the fact the Bucs twice took the ball away. Few things matter more in a game of football than the takeaway margin and the Bucs won there as well Sunday, forcing and taking away two fumbles, including one for a touchdown, while never giving it away.

Again, that’s execution.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

Florida Football Insiders



Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders



Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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