Relevance On The Line

November 1st, 2016


Tampa Bay sports sage eye-RAH! Kaufman is a columnist after a long career at The Tampa Tribune. In less than four months, his shenanigans around world headquarters have become legendary — and the guy doesn’t even drink beer! 

Ira’s columns appear here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (except for this unique Tuesday morning). Today, Ira looks at the big picture of Thursday night’s clash with the Falcons. 


No matter what happens Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium, the Falcons will remain in first place in the NFC South.

That’s the bad news for Buc fans.

The good news is a Tampa Bay victory would change everything.

It would leave the Bucs 4-4 at the halfway point, but more importantly, it would leave them on Atlanta’s heels with a season sweep of the Falcons in their back pocket.

Can they pull this off?

The Falcons have been established as slight favorites for the nationally televised matchup, highlighted by John Lynch’s halftime induction into the Ring of Honor.

Lynch won’t recognize this Buc defense, which was just torched by Derek Carr for 513 yards in Sunday’s 30-24 overtime setback. The Tampa 2 is long gone, and so are Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.

In February, Lynch could become the third member of that iconic defense inducted into Canton.

See any potential Hall of Famers on this current unit?

Hurry-Up Approach

The short work week probably plays to Tampa Bay’s advantage. Atlanta has to board a plane, only three days after a riveting victory against Green Bay, and the Bucs don’t have much time to dwell on Sunday’s travesty.

That’s a good thing, because the Raiders tried to hand the Bucs a third consecutive win with an NFL-record 23 penalties.

Transaction denied.

Now a defense under siege must deal with the league’s most prolific attack. The Falcons top the NFL in scoring (32.8 points per game) and total offense (425.2 yards) behind veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, who is enjoying a career season.

The Associated Press just asked me to select a midseason MVP and I didn’t hesitate filling in the blank with Ryan’s name. He’s been that good, averaging an NFL-best 9.4 yards per pass attempt.

That’s a key barometer of quarterback efficiency and the Falcons have scored at least 24 points in every game during a surprising 5-3 start.

The addition of veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in the offseason has given Ryan another reliable weapon to complement Julio Jones. Sanu caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds of Sunday’s thriller against the Packers.

“He definitely demands a lot of attention,” Jones said of the former Bengal. “He’s a very crafty guy and they have to have eyes on him. That’s why I’ve been having big plays down the field.”

After Sunday’s nightmare against Carr, Tampa Bay’s embattled secondary must gear up for an offense that leads the league with 13 completions of 40 yards or more. Even in the 31-24 loss to the Bucs in the season opener, Ryan completed 27-of-39 passes for 334 yards.

The Bucs applied just enough pressure on Ryan in the Georgia Dome to disrupt his rhythm, but the pass rush against Derek Carr wasn’t nearly good enough. Carr had plenty of time to find 10 different targets, including former Bucs left tackle Donald Penn, whose postgame grin stretched all the way to Oakland.

“Yeah, if he (Carr) passes for over 500, it’s a mixture of both,” said Bucs rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. “We have to cover better. We have to rush better.”


You know the old adage — every game counts the same in the standings. Don’t believe it.

This one is HUGE.

The best way to generate interest from your fan base is to win at home. The Bucs and Browns are the only teams without a home victory, and you never want to be mentioned in the same sentence as the winless Browns.

Dirk Koetter is 0-3 at home and a loss Thursday night would leave him halfway to matching Lovie Smith’s 0-8 slate in 2014. We know how that worked out for all concerned.

There’s no getting around it, the Bucs simply have to find a way to win this matchup to remain relevant. If Tampa Bay falls to 3-5, local football chatter will turn toward the 2017 draft and potential free agents.

John Lynch, the enforcer, will be in the house. Can the Bucs make him proud?

8 Responses to “Relevance On The Line”

  1. Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    Every year I am dumbfounded by this team, and it always feels like we find new ground with that. We should be 5-2. We should have beat the Rams and the Raiders tried to give us the game. But the reality is we are in crash and burn mode, again, discussing who we should take in next year’s draft (after using a valuable 2nd rd pick on a kicker instead of a WR or DE!!!)

    As it is every year, this is so disheartening

  2. D-Rome Says:

    The Bucs were very fortunate to get a win against Atlanta. For all the celebrating the players and fans did I kept reminding you that Matt Ryan still threw over 300 yards and completed nearly 70% of his passes.

    Sure, Jameis threw four touchdowns but that was back when Dirk and Jameis trusted each other. My how that has changed over the past eight weeks.

    Jason Licht’s biggest and best free agent acquisition, Bryan Anger, will see plenty of action on Thursday night.

  3. Defense Rules Says:

    Reality is that Ryan & Company will put points on the board. Lots of them. Bucs won the first meeting this year because Jameis had a great day … 23-for-32 and 4 TDs. Martin & Sims caught 8-for-8 and Myers & Brate & ASJ went 5-for-5. Our 3 WRs in that game went 10-for-19 … meh. Rushing was mediocre at best (90 yds on 28 attempts). Bucs ‘short passing game’ saved the day.

    Fast forward to Thursday. No Martin. No Sims. TEs being used lately more as blockers than anything else. Jameis in an apparent slump with limited weapons. Bucs defense is reeling and our offense is staggering. Bucs haven’t won at home since last December. Good to know however that the Falcons are only ‘slight favorites’.

  4. d-roca Says:

    Good thing the games are played on the field, with the guys who are available. If not all you guys would already have the bucs at 3-5. N a big part of the reason the bucs won in week 1 was koetter and smiths familiarity with the falcons. Dont underestimate it again this week. Lets get to 4-4 cuz suddenly cutler woke up n they have an extra week to practice for the buccos. Go bucs

  5. Tampa Tony Says:

    Bucs haven’t been relevant since Gruden was here. I have 3 sons and I doubt the Bucs will be relevant until all are old enough to shave

  6. mike n Says:

    Its hard to play big on a short week and damn near impossible when you play and extra quarter. Look what cards and seahawks did this weekend after playing an extra quarter. The easiest money in vegas is bet against the team that played and extra quarter.

  7. DB55 Says:

    Conte is the antithesis of Lynch.

    The def has struggled for years. Not sure how many leads they’ve given up in the fourth qrt over the past 3 years.

  8. BucTrooper Says:

    The Bucs haven’t won a home game in almost a calendar year.