Focus Is The Next Challenge

September 10th, 2018

Ira’s Monday column showcases various takes from the victorious Bucs locker room


Gerald McCoy knew what had to be done when he strolled into the Bucs locker room with a wide smile after Sunday’s game.

“I walked around and thanked all of them personally,” he said, referring to Tampa Bay’s offensive players. “They had our back today and I appreciate it.”

The Bucs have been playing football since 1976 and they had never scored as many as 48 points in a road game until rampaging through the Big Easy.

It’s hard to imagine Ryan Fitzpatrick having a better game and to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Buc quarterback more poised and efficient.

The Bucs were a hacked-off bunch when they boarded that plane bound for New Orleans Saturday afternoon. They were still mad at themselves for plunging to 5-11 last season, but they were more upset that national pundits still branded them as losers.

“I think this team kind of took that underdog mentality coming into the game,” said Cameron Brate. “We struggled last year and the Saints were good last year, I get that. But we thought it was disrespectful to be double-digit underdogs.”

There was so much to like about Sunday’s effort that it’s natural to gloss over the concerns.

For instance, Jason Pierre-Paul made an inauspicious debut up front. Fifteen players were listed on the post-game defensive stat sheet and JPP’s name was notably absent.

Run defense was solid, but the Bucs did a poor job containing Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara — the only two guys who scare you as weapons for Drew Brees.

“We scored on defense and had two turnovers,” Mike Smith noted. “A win’s a win, but we have a lot of things to fix … pass rush, pass coverage.”

Don’t expect Brent Grimes to make a miraculous recovery from an injured groin this week, so the Bucs will rely again on a young secondary against the Eagles.

The good news is nobody is confusing Nick Foles with Brees, although he does have a history of tormenting the Bucs. Philadelphia also doesn’t have a wide receiver like Thomas or a back like Kamara.

The real challenge for the Bucs heading into the home opener is to remain focused. May I remind you that Tampa Bay began the 2016 season with a thrilling upset win at Atlanta, triggering euphoria from Temple Terrace to Thonotosassa.

In Week 2, the Bucs were waxed 40-7 at Arizona after falling behind 24-0 at halftime.

Still, there’s a sense this offense has arrived. The protection in front of Fitzpatrick was exemplary, giving him time to average a startling 14.9 yards per pass attempt.

“Fitz controlled the game and our wide receivers balled out as well,” said Ali Marpet. “In our locker room, we know what we’ve got. I think 48 points should be our expectations for an offense this talented.”

For one week, at least, Fitzpatrick, Todd Monken and crew deserve all the plaudits.

“As long as they’re doing their job, we’re going to go out and do our job better,” said Kwon Alexander. “We’re just getting started around here.”

Now in his 40th year covering the NFL, Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in the Tampa Bay area. He scored a full-time seat at world headquarters in July of 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Also a TV star, see Ira now on Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360 (aka BayNews 9). Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, tennis, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

Airs twice-weekly through the season on and at The Identity Tampa Bay. (click through to view The Identity site)

18 Responses to “Focus Is The Next Challenge”

  1. Wausa Says:

    I agree Ira:
    This season has a different vibe, but time will tell. Jamies and Fitz both played great in camp and the preseason and now that appears to be carrying over to the regular season.

    It should not be shocking to Ira and Joe since they have seen how good the Bucs have looked in camp and the preseason.

  2. Wombat Says:

    It would be easy to sit here and say the only thing I saw Gerald do on Sunday, with any note, was jump offside… He wasn’t alone on defense. I hope this defense isn’t set up for a different era. This is predicated on pass rush and that was all but missing. We know the secondary is shaky at best, and if the big boys up front don’t get their schtick together, its gonna be a long season.

  3. Pickgrin Says:

    “Remain focused”

    That is going to be an oft repeated phrase this week…

  4. Says:

    Guys- our defense played pretty well. stuffed an elite runner. Brees is going to torch anyone with safeties playing 40 yards deep up 24 points. The D-Line played well. GMC was in the backfield a lot. Pocket collapsed a lot. Great effort, especially with Nassib fresh off the plane and JPP out a bit injured. Some improvements to make, but a solid showing.

  5. garey Says:

    I hope the Bucs read this article, we beat the Bears down and got demolished the rest of the season lets stay focused

  6. pelbuc Says:

    Bucs also laid an egg last year in game two being blown out by the Vikings so they better fix that D in a hurry but frankly, I don’t see that happening. No pass rush and lots of missed tackles yesterday. Did the D yesterday stop the Saints at the end? No! It was Fitz’s great run on 3rd and 11 that saved the day even after scoring 48 points! That should be cause for concern.

  7. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Preach Ira

    Bring on Philly!

    On To The Next One
    -By JayZ ft Swizz Beatz- On To The Next One

  8. Buddah Says:

    Brees was sacked only 20 times all last season. He is ranked as the toughest quarterback to sack in the NFL. With a 24 point lead it makes sense to play back and not allow any big plays over top. JPP was hurt on the first or second play of the game. Brees sidestepped sacks two or three times. He and Rodgers are the most clever quarterbacks at eluding rushers. New Orleans also has first-rate offensive line. Though it seems contradictory, the best way to beat the Saints is to take away their running game and long passing game.

  9. Bucsfanman Says:

    To be fair, this is the offense I, and some here, expected LAST year; EXPLOSIVE! It’s the only side of the ball with any continuity. I expected a “learning curve” on defense but not this steep, especially given the veteran additions.
    This is Drew Brees we’re speaking of here.
    GMC did the right thing in thanking that offense. I just hope that he, and the rest of the defense, can return the favor early and often. A missed tackle here and there, scheme issues, and a missed FG was the difference in this almost being an absolute blowout by this team.

    BUH-LEAVE Buc fans!

  10. unbelievable Says:

    The offensive line needs to continue to play like they did, especially in the first half. The Eagles D-line will bring a lot more pressure than New Orleans did, so don’t expect Fitz to have as much time this week coming up.

    On defense, we’re gonna have to figure it out with Grimes out for at least a few weeks, and now possibly VH3 too. That’s gonna be a little rough.

    I do think the play of the d-line and linebackers will improve over the next few weeks, hopefully it’s sooner than later.

    The Eagles scare me b/c of their d-line and because Foles has shredded us historically. The Steelers on the other hand I think we can beat if Fitz is able to have a decent game and the d-line is meshing better.

  11. Trench War Says:

    I think the Bucs remind me of the children’s story “The Little Engine That Could”

    chugga chugga, choo, choo,

    Before the game: We think we can, We think we can

    After the game: We knew we could, we knew we could

    WTG Bucs!

  12. Mike Johnson Says:

    I don’t care how good this offense plays. We gotta start playin better DEFENSE.
    We will score. But we will not outscore everybody. Imagine if we really got a Defense? Still not impressed with Smitty as a DC. up there in that pressbox.
    I mean we were ahead 48-24 with 8:57 left in the 4th. You can’t tell me you did not get nervous. I just don’t see the improvement yet Defensively. And trust me, Philly’s gonna study the film. Fitz suprised us all with his lateral movement. Something he’s never shown. But he won’t surprise Philly. Batter up DC Smitty!! Improve this sorry defense or hit the rocking chair sir!!

  13. AmericasEnabler Says:

    Hey Ira, sacks don’t matter? LOL

  14. AmericasEnabler Says:

    Run defense was solid? They ran 16 times dood.

    Those bitching about JPP the guy wiff’d on a sure sack on that 4th down play. It happens, that won’t happen much trust me. The part we should be excited about is that the wiff was on a down that mattered. JPP stepped up on a crucial down and put on pressure. How many DL over the year can you say did that, not since Bennett.

    Curry got his sack on 3rd down with an amazing rush.

    Now everyone realized what happened when JPP missed that sack? Brees decapitated them, yet somehow this guy Ira thinks pressure is enough to stop Brees hahahahahahaha IDIOT!

    Nassib gets a great rush and wiffs on Brees. What did Brees do? Threw a 20 yard completion.

    Curry locked him in and down his ass. What did Brees do? Walked off the field.


  15. D the Bucs fan Says:

    Pressure doesnt matter i agree with AE. Only sacks Spence and gholtson hit brees and he still completed the ball. We need to stop playing such soft coverage give your rush time to get there dang. We shut the saints out in the third quarter then smitty started calling prevent you from stopping them defense prevent never works ask the falcons

  16. ATrain Says:

    GMC is the Key
    When he plays and gets up Field the defense is devastating

    When GMC is run down the line so so



  17. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    If we blitzed much, I sure didn’t see it….Brees is very hard to bring down……I also think we never batted down a pass…..
    What’s with that….can’t get to the QB but once in 40 plus attempts….need to get the hands up.

  18. Pic Jordan Says:

    Ira or either Joe: I may have missed this point in other articles, but why no “C” on any Bucs player uniforms in Week 1? McCoy, David, Alexander and Evans are obviously still team captains, even with the “C” missing from their jersey. Unless it’s their rookie season, QBs are normally team captains and the Winston suspension is the obvious reason for the missing “C” from other team captain’s game day jersey. Any reason given to the media or did you all miss that Sunday in the middle of “Fitz Magic”?