Brand X

October 17th, 2016



It’s a question of stolen identity, and the Buccaneers have 11 weeks remaining to solve the case.

Winning NFL teams usually establish an obvious formula for their success. Last year’s Broncos rode a relentless defense led by Von Miller to a Super Bowl championship, overcoming a pedestrian attack.

The Seahawks also featured a dominating defense when they crushed Denver in the 2014 Super Bowl. New England counts on Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski, backed by the best coach of his generation: Bill Belichick.

The Cowboys have decided on a different blueprint, and it’s working very well this season. Behind the NFL’s most punishing offensive line, Dallas imposes its will every week with rookie Dak Prescott under center. Just ask the battered Packers, who surrendered 157 yards to league rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott.

Opponents were averaging a mere 2.0 yards per carry before America’s team strolled into Lambeau Field and carved out an average of 5.8 yards on 33 rushing attempts.

No Brand

Credit the studs up front, including three former first-round draft picks who appear destined for the Pro Bowl. Left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zach Martin are making things easy for Prescott, who is doing his part by avoiding mistakes.

“It’s amazing just to turn around and see the holes they’re making,” Prescott says.

During their five-game winning streak, the Cowboys are averaging 28 points and the Bucs head to Dallas Dec. 18 for a challenging matchup that could define Tampa Bay’s season.

Through a 2-3 start, the Bucs have yet to build a brand. The defense, which has played with more conviction in the past two games, remains a work in progress.

Perhaps a disappointing pass rush will improve when Robert Ayers returns from an ankle injury suffered in Week 2. Four takeaways at Carolina suggest players are becoming more comfortable in Mike Smith’s system, but nobody would call Tampa Bay’s defense elite at this point.

Until Jacquizz Rodgers stepped up under the lights in Charlotte, Tampa Bay’s ground game was bloody awful. There were few holes, and even when there was daylight, Charles Sims couldn’t reach the second level.

Jameis Winston has missed too many open receivers and Vincent Jackson has now gone eight games without reaching the end zone. He has topped the 100-yard mark only once in his past 18 games.

As good as Mike Evans has become, an offense with only one proven receiving threat can’t truly be considered dangerous.

So where does that leave the Bucs?

As usual, it leaves them with more questions than answers coming off a bye week.

Stringing Required

The Falcons are 4-2 and Dan Quinn’s club just turned in an impressive effort at Seattle. If the Bucs don’t catch Atlanta atop the NFC South, there are six wild-card contenders currently ahead of Tampa Bay for two postseason spots.

If the Bucs are serious about ending an eight-year playoff drought, they have to string wins together. They are slight favorites at San Francisco on Sunday, but if they lose to the 49ers, that Monday night victory at Carolina will lose its impact.

Identity counts in the NFL — and right now the Bucs don’t have one. During the glory days, Tampa Bay’s defense advised the offense, “Give us 17 points and we’ll win this game.”

The unbeaten Vikings are using that same winning formula this year.

The Bucs still have plenty of time to figure out what they are. Fans would like to know — and that goes for the Glazers, too.

Who are you? That’s a heck of a question.

That minus-48 point differential through five games suggests this identity crisis is far from resolution.

11 Responses to “Brand X”

  1. salish_seamonster Says:

    FIx the obvious things and 8-8 is well within reach.

    1) Winston’s turnovers
    2) Pass defense
    3) Kicking

  2. Mike Johnson Says:

    Prescott is not making a lot of mistakes like Jameis. Who overthrows balls, throws interceptions, and just turns over thae ball like he’s makin pancakes.
    We can beat the 49ers IF..we show up. Those next 2 games though………

  3. DB55 Says:

    The teams has an identity and it’s Jameis Winston. Give Jameis 3 first RD draft pick pro bowl lineman and I can promise you he’s 4-1 also.

    Right now we’re a soft defense with a young offense with 2 good players.

  4. Kobe Faker Says:

    i have a strange feeling we are going to lose to the niners

    Koetter at the pr stated fatboy martin is going to be the feature back 1st and 2nd down over Quizz..

    does this clown know how to evaluate his own roster? Quizz right now is better condition and better than 2016 fatboy dougie. doesnt this fool understand?

    get ready for run run pass and alot of unsuccessful 3rd and longs

    34-17 niners with yippy missing 2 field goals

  5. Mikadeemas Says:

    WTF Kobe? Why are you such a D!CK!?!?

  6. pete Says:

    Stocker back. Running game will improve!
    Go Bucs!!!

  7. ThunderSack Says:

    Great write-up, Ira!

    It remains to be seen what the strong point of our team is going to be. We are grading out as average across the board on offense although we only have two (Evans and Brate) receiving threats. Our defense is new and players are just growing comfortable without our starting defensive front intact.

    I’m excited to see what becomes the strength of our team regardless of the bumps along the way!

  8. Louis Friend Says:

    Ira, I love your attempt to put lipstick on a pig. You’ve gotten so much practice at it over the years. It’s not working, but at least you’re getting paid to try.

  9. BucsFanInChina Says:

    Lol Kobe love a good troll. Yippie

  10. BucsFanInChina Says:

    Let’s see what our boys, when healthy, can do this wk vs the niners. THEN we can write em off if (and when?) Kap spanks us. GO BUCS

  11. Brandon Says:

    Hmmmmm, what’s that Joe always says about franchise success? QB driven league, defenses aren’t going to win championships, QBs will, etc. Why is it the two best defenses played in the Super Bowl last season (and the best D won), while Seattle had taken the best defense over the previous two seasons to the Super Bowl?

    Yes, having a franchise QB is great…but having a defense that can be counted on week in and week out to keep you in games is just as important. Drew Brees is still excellent…but he can barely win a game. Philip Rivers is still playing well, but the Chargers aren’t, yet the Vikings are on QB #3 and look like the team to beat in the NFC despite also losing Adrian Peterson and their starting LT.