Because the Bucs have actually been… dare I say it.. pretty fun to watch lately.
So instead of jumping right into this week’s game recap as though I’ve been recapping the season all along, let me offer instead a catch-up. A little “scenes from the last few weeks,” if you will.
Doug Martin is not a Muscle Hamster, but he is small, fast, and full of muscle, so…
The Bucs’ rookie running back, who hates his given nickname, has earned points, and praise, and even airtime on national telecasts (quite a feat for the small-market team players) with his phenomenal season-to-date. So far the young Buc has gained 862 yards rushing, 296 yards receiving, and 8 touchdowns. Martin rose to insta-fame when he gained 214 yards from scrimmage on the Bucs’ first national game this season against the Adrian Peterson-led Vikings. Martin also became the second player in NFL history, along with Denver’s Mike Anderson, to rush for 250-plus yards and four scores in a game against the Raiders last week.
The wacky Tampa Bay offense has come up with an insane new scheme, in which the QB throws the ball, the receivers catch the ball, and points are scored.
The Bucs are currently #4 overall in points scored per game, thanks to the magnificent play of Muscle Hams… erm, Martin, as well as solid play from QB Josh Freeman and the receiving corps. It’s clear that the addition of WR Vincent Jackson in free agency has been a boon, not only because the guy makes big catches every game, but because of the impact he’s had on the other receivers. Third-year receiver Mike Williams has noted in interviews that Jackson has been a willing mentor for the receivers, teaching them everything from how to play on the field to how to carry themselves off the field. And Williams has thrived under the tutelage, with 5 touchdown catches this season and an average of 18.3 yards per catch. Plus, having two top-tier receivers on the team–along with a running back who’s en fuego–means defenders must scramble to cover everyone. And these defenses haven’t been all that effective, with Tampa currently ranking #1 in the NFL in yards per play.
Half of the defense is the best. Literally. The other half is the worst. Literally.
This time last year could you have imagined a world in which the Bucs’ rush defense would lead the league? I mean, seriously folks. I could’ve score 17 touchdowns on last year’s rush defense, and I was the girl in high school who finished the mile run so slowly that the P.E. coach told me to write down my own time on the clipboard when I was done because the rest of the class had to go in to change before they were late for the next class period. (#SadTrueStoriesFromBucsChick) Anyway, the Bucs rank #1 against the run this year, allowing only 80.1 yards per game. DT Gerald McCoy is finally having the outstanding year we knew he could have. DE Michael Bennett is having an exceptional year so far with 6 sacks and 21 tackles. And rookies S Mark Barron and LB Lavonte David are proving they were worth the high draft picks. The pass defense, on the other hand, ranks 32nd in the league. There isn’t much to say about that, except 1) Ronde is making some nice plays in his new role at safety, 2) rookie Leonard Johnson has had an INT in each of the last three games, helping to save the team from a loss each time, 3) the Bucs should have a nice, first-round type rookie cornerback on the team next year.
The Bucs are in playoff contention…. Yes, I mean like the end-of-season playoffs…. No, it’s not April Fools. This is November…. Yes, I swear on the jersey of Future Hall-of-Famer Derrick Brooks….
At 5-4, the Bucs have a winning record to begin the second half of the season. They also have a boatload of injuries (including a scary neck injury to LB Quincy Black in yesterday’s game that we hope will be quick to heal), a brand-new-to-the-NFL head coach who has a penchant for stirring feathers, and a pass defense that, as previously noted, is bad. But even the very possibility of reaching the playoffs is more than most Bucs fans dreamed of this off-season, so I think we’ll take it.
Bucs fans, do you have anything to add to the half-season +1 game recap? What was your favorite surprise this season?