Finally, the Tampa Bay Bucs are a team worth taking seriously.
Finally, you can talk about the future, or the playoffs, or the progress, and not sound silly.
Finally, they matter.
The Bucs won their third straight game, and their second against a bona fide Super Bowl contender, with a 14-5 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. It was the team’s biggest win in, well, a week, since the team went into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs.
The win could have been even bigger for Tampa Bay – which had a touchdown called back and a field goal missed – but it will do. The Bucs’ defense, in particular, pestered quarterback Russell Wilson to one of his worst days. Wilson threw for only 151 yards, threw two interceptions and was sacked six times. His rating for the day was only 36.8.
“We’re playing good team football right now and playing really good team defense,” said coach Dirk Koetter. “Ever since the little mini-bye, the Thursday night game (against the Falcons), Smitty (Mike Smith) and the defensive coaches cut it back a little bit, simplified things, maybe doing a little bit less. Let these guys play faster and they’ve responded. We’ve got good depth. Jay (Hayes) is doing a really good job rotating those d-linemen. Chris Conte got banged up a little bit and Keith Tandy came in. Bradley McDougald comes up with a big play. Brent Grimes, not practicing much all week, coming in there, Vernon Hargreaves playing a different position, and of course Alterraun (Verner) didn’t really practice at all (after Thursday.) I think the defense is back. I saw Derrick Brooks down there on the sideline right before the game. I thought I was having flashbacks to Bucs past teams.’’
The Bucs scored on their first two possessions – both on passes from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans. The first one was for three yards. The second one was for 23 yards.
Evans ended the day with 104 yards on eight catches.
Winston has now played four out of his last five games with a quarterback rating of 97.3 or higher. Doug Martin had 87 yards on 23 carries.
Alterraun Verner, whose father Robert Lee died on Saturday at age 61, played in the game. He had an interception to contribute to the defense.
“It’s a week-to-week league,” Koetter said. “We’re all on a high right now. Obviously, a huge win and we beat two good teams back-to-back. I’m sure San Diego is going to present a whole new set of problems when we start looking at them tomorrow. We’re playing good football right now. We’re going to enjoy tonight. We’ll go into panic mode tomorrow as soon as we start watching Phillip Rivers’ tape.’’
Tampa Bay is at San Diego Sunday.