With the regular season behind us, it’s time to look ahead to the Dallas Cowboys and the wildcard playoff game next Monday night.
The Buccaneers limped to the finish line dropping a 30-17 decision to the Atlanta Falcons.
Defensive tackle Vita Vea, offensive linemen Donovan Smith, cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Logan Ryan, safety Mike Edwards, linebacker Carl Nassib, and wide receiver Julio Jones did not dress for the season finale.
Wide receiver Mike Evans was also scratched with an illness right before kickoff.
Buccaneer Backups Struggle In Extended Playing Time
At times the second half resembled a preseason game as KJ Britt, JJ Russell, and Dee Delaney got extended playing time on defense.
Checking the offensive linemen on the field, you needed a numerical roster to determine who was playing.
Brandon Walton, Luke Goedeke, Nick Leverett, Shaq Mason, and Justin Skule played most of the second half after center Robert Hainsey went down with an injury.
With the Falcons playing their starters most of the game, the Bucs backups had trouble moving the ball on offense and stopping the Falcon’s offense.
Todd Bowles talked about the backups in his post-game press conference. “The young guys had a chance to step up. They’ve been with us all year. We expect them to play the same way with little drop-off. We had more drop off than we wanted to. Given the opportunity, those guys have got to play better.”
Bowles added, “It’s a division game. Regardless of who’s out there, we’re trying to win the game. We went into halftime with a lead. We should have been able to preserve the lead. We got beat on fundamental stuff with some of the younger guys, and we’ve got to go back to the drawing board with those guys.”
In his four previous starts, Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder had not thrown a touchdown pass. But he was able to throw two touchdown passes against the Buccaneer defense.
The Buccaneers were very conservative on offense as they lived off the short passes, averaging 6.2 yards pass play per game.
If this is Brady’s last season in Tampa, Buccaneer fans should get used to seeing this type of offense that we saw against the Falcons on Sunday afternoon as long as Byron Leftwich is calling the plays.
Three Buccaneer Players Reach Milestones
Despite all the inefficiencies of the offense, there were some milestones reached.
Chris Godwin notched his third 1,000 yard season and went over 100 catches for the first time in his career, finishing with 104.
Mike Evans added to his Hall of Fame resume with his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season.
45-year old Tom Brady had career highs in pass attempts(733) and completions (490).
These milestones were all set despite a putrid offense for most of the season.
Kyle Trask Makes His Regular Season Debut
We saw Kyle Trask briefly, who was the Bucs picked in the second round of the 2021 draft, and this was his first chance to suit up for a regular season game.
Trask did not overwhelm in his brief playing time, going 3/9 for 26 yards and a 1.6 QBR.
I still can’t understand how we know Trask can’t cut it as an NFL quarterback based on his small sample size.
I would be comfortable going to training camp with Trask competing for the starting job.
A few quarterbacks will also be available for the right price. Derek Carr, Jimmy Garroppolo, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Teddy Bridgewater.
Lamar Jackson could also be available if the Ravens and his agent agree on a contract.
And there is always the possibility that Tom Brady will return for another season in Tampa at age 46.
The other concerning question is, who will want to come to Tampa to play quarterback when you have one of the worst play-callers in the NFL? Of course, that is assuming the Buccaneers keep Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator.
But this week, it’s all about the Dallas Cowboys. Speculation can wait.
The Cowboys open as three-point favorites, and based on how the Buccaneers have played this season, that seems fair.
However, when you have Tom Brady as your quarterback, you are never out of a game until the final whistle blows.