1. As I’m sure you know, the Buccaneers Super Bowl win will always have an asterisk after it because they lost to the Chicago Bears in the regular season. Do you think this is the year the Bucs can finally get over the hump and beat the Monsters of the Midway?
Oh yikes. First time I’ve ever heard of an asterisk because of a regular season loss. Anyway, yeah - there is little doubt in my mind that the Bucs can get the job done despite the fact that half the team soars to be out with injuries. Through six weeks this season, the Buccaneers have lost at least one starter per game and most of those have been on the defensive side of the ball. Now, it appears Antonio Brown may not be available as he’s dealing with an ankle injury. If he’s out, that means the Bucs would be without their leading target in the passing game as well as tight end Rob Gronkowski for the fourth straight game.
Even with those problems, and missing three corners and linebacker Lavonte David, I haven’t seen enough out of Justin Fields to make me worry. I wasn’t the biggest Fields fan coming into the draft, but it’s hard to tell if Fields is having trouble adjusting to the pro game or if Matt Nagy is just making things far more difficult on him than they need to be. Either way, Allen Robinson has been nonexistent and with David Montgomery out I’m not overly concerned with Khalil Herbert out of the backfield.
2. Vita Vea has been my favorite player on the Bucs since he came into the league, in no small part due to his resemblance to an actual Bear when he performs his hump move. How has he been holding down the Bucs line? Will the Bears finally-flourishing running game hit a wall this weekend?
Yeah, the Buccaneers are still hands down the best run defense in the NFL. Miles Sanders was able to gain some chunks late in the game last week, but Tampa still shut down any semblance of a running game the Eagles tried. Jalen Hurts was able to make a few plays with his legs, but Shaquil Barrett was chasing him all over the field. I expect more of the same on Sunday, which will lead to broken plays, sacks, and occasional first down scrambles by Fields.
3. The Bucs offense has been impressive to say the least. Is it still fun to watch your team score, or does it eventually start to feel like playing Madden on rookie mode?
No, it’s always fun. In fact, it becomes a bit frustrating when they punt two possessions in a row. At this point, you start to look at what this offense is capable of while also knowing the defense is limited with all the players they have out. You don’t want the offense to let off the gas and put pressure on that defensive side of the ball. You want to see them hit the mid-30’s and have the game well in hand by the early part of the fourth quarter. And let’s face it - after a history of offenses that strutted out guys like Steve DeBerg, Trent Dilfer, Shaun King, Mike Glennon, Josh McCown, and Josh Freeman it’s always going to put a smile on fans faces when the Bucs are scoring at will.
4. Speaking of that offense, have there been any particular defensive strategies that have been successful in slowing it down?
I think the best effort we saw was by the New England Patriots, though I’m not sure their effort could be duplicated. They did a great job of showing Tom Brady things he thought he knew then changing after the snap. The disguises and packages they implemented really caused some trouble for the Bucs. Tampa had no problem moving the ball, but were stymied in the red zone over and over again. Now, some of that might have had to do with it being the first game without Gronk, but the Patriots defense deserves a ton of credit. They did a perfect job of really hiding what they wanted to do.
5. Let’s say the Bucs get the ball, drive the field and score a field goal on the first drive. Then the Bears line up and shockingly Nick Foles comes out at quarterback. How scared is Tom Brady? Does he fall apart immediately or is it a slow process over the course of the game?
He probably rolls his eyes and goes 7/7 for 60 yards and a touchdown on the next drive. In fact, he may try to hit the five touchdown mark for the third time this season. At the same time, Vita Vea will be salivating at the chance to get after Foles again since he was making life very difficult for Foles last year before leaving with that injury. In the alternate universe where this happens, it might actually lead to the most lopsided loss the Bears ever had.
6. It’s still the 5th question, right?
Ok, I get the reference, but here’s a story that your readers may not know;
On that infamous play where Brady threw incomplete then held up his four fingers, thinking he had one more down there was actually an issue on the field. One of the down markers was at 3 when he snapped the ball - and that happened to be the one he looked at before the play. The other marker was correctly changed over to 4, but that mistake led to Brady making quite the gaff of his own. It’s funny in hindsight - especially when soon enough he can hold up four fingers on each hand and have a ring on every one of them.