At halftime, Bucs fans surely though the worst; Jameis was an ineffective 6 of 12 and 81 yards passing, only 1 3rd down conversion completed, and 105 total net yards to Dallas 257. It was Oakland all over again, worse yet Atlanta. All of the turning around of the defense, where did it go? This article was being prepared; Bucs not playoff ready yet, need another draft worth of talent.
Then the Bucs offensive line began to take over, giving Jameis Winston time to throw, and lanes for the Bucs backs to run. Doug Martin gained 5 yards on his first carry, they 6 on the next. A second first down on a throw to Mike Evans for 13 yards gave the Bucs the ball at midfield, and two plays later on 3rd &1 Adam Humphries kept amazing concentration to pull a deflected ball back to his arms for the Touchdown.
Bucs Defensive line started getting pressure again like it did the first drive of the game, and the Bucs side that has the most responsibility for this 5-1 record in last 6 games, did its job in the 3rd quarter and forced a fumble on 3rd down that stopped the next drive. Taking over inside their 20, the Bucs gave Dallas fans a glimpse of The Cameron Brate Show!
The Bucs had done the unthinkable just two months ago, down by 14 at Dallas, they fought back and took the lead! Then the defense really fired it when it mattered, stopping two drives including a turnover by Jameis, and forced the Boys to kick FGs, which they missed as many as Aguayo did in any game in September you care to remember. Then the defense gave the offense the ball at the 50 yard line, down by 3 points with 8 minutes still left on the clock.
What did the offense do? Two poor performances; on 2nd down Jameis hits Charles Sims for a screen pass; blockers down in front ( A sure 30 yard minimum gain if either of the two O linemen get their blocks). Not one blocker got his man, including Gosder Cherilus who was benched on the Bucs final drive after a poor performance. On third down the ball sailed over Russell Shepard’s arms on a secure first down route.
Speaking of poor performances, Roberto Aguayo made both FG attempt and both Touchdown PATs as well. In a year where well known kickers are losing jobs left and right, and he was looking to be added to the list, Aguayo has been making his kicks at a 90+% rate over the last month or so. Special teams in general have been on the up, and after failing to capitalize on the turnover, Punter Bryan Anger did what he always does; pinned the Cowboys inside the 5.
They ended up kicking a FG as the probably rookie of the year Ezekiel Elliot ran wild and the Cowboys kicked the FG that made the Bucs require a TD or go home a loser.
Bottom line, this is a Bucs team that we can now say with all certainty has turned the Corner. Its one thing to shut down a Cutler, its another to shut down a Brees. The Bucs didn’t shut down Das Prescott, but they came alive when Dallas got into the red zone, pushed them back enough times to force FGs instead of Touchdowns, and that keep them in the game. The Bucs showed the entire NFL, here is Dak Prescott who was 32 of 36, Here is Elliot who had over 150 yards, and Bucs turned the ball over 3 times (I dont count end of half hail mary plays as they have no consequences. And in all of that, at the end of the game Tampa Bay has the ball with a chance to win….AT DALLAS.
This is a franchise that went from 1980 to 2010 in between wins at San Francisco. This is a franchise that at one point was 1-21 on the west coast, and 1-19 in games under 40 degrees. The Bucs in 1981 playoff game went to Texas Stadium and look around the place like it was the holy ground. The 2016 Bucs get there and act like they own the place. This is a team that went into Kansas City and took a win from the Chiefs who won 19 in a row there. They took a win from San Diego in California. They took wins from Drew Brees, and held him to no touchdowns, and now the Bucs took Dallas to 1 minute left in the game before they escaped with a 26-20 well deserved win.
Tampa Bay is clearly only a couple of key players away from a bonafide legitimate playoff team, not just a team to make the playoffs (which they still can) But WIN in the playoffs, then dominate in them. A serious 2nd Wide Receiver to go along with Mike Evans like a Cooper and Crabtree.
No matter what happens in the next two games, as long as the Bucs can split, they have succeeded in uniting Bucs fans behind them, and saying what Bucs fans have not said in a long time at the end of a season.
“Just wait till next year” …and mean it.