Tough Enough?

September 29th, 2018


This game has all the subtlety of a Mike Tyson left hook.

If you’re seeking an incisive preview of Sunday’s matchup at Soldier Field, look no further than Tyson’s immortal quote when asked about his boxing philosophy:

“Everyone has a plan — until they get punched in the mouth,” he said.

That’s what this game against Chicago looks like, a smash-mouth duel that will test the mental toughness of the Buccaneers.

There’s no Drew Brees to worry about, no trick plays that are the hallmark of the Eagles. Nobody’s worried about covering Antonio Brown this week.

No, this is a battle of wills and mental toughness against a Chicago team seeking its first 3-1 start since 2013. These Bears look like a throwback to some of Lovie Smith’s successful clubs in the Windy City — pedestrian passing game, solid rushing attack and stout defense.

In those days, Brian Urlacher set the physical tone on defense. He’s already been rewarded with a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A decade later, it’s Khalil Mack’s turn.

“What he has done is completely elevated everybody else on that defense,” says Bears coach Matt Nagy.

Jon Gruden’s castoff has quickly morphed into Nagy’s godsend. Mack already has registered four sacks and three forced fumbles and the Bucs must account for him on every snap.

Mack is having the same effect that Calais Campbell had on the Jaguars in 2017, raising the level of play for talented teammates. He’s a difference-maker. Once Mack arrived in a trade, the Bears have blitzed less, dropping seven into coverage.

Who needs to send extra pass rushers when you already lead the league with 14 sacks?

Winning Formula

Tampa Bay’s offensive line, coming off a poor performance Monday night, needs to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick upright long enough to find all those talented targets.

Chicago could easily be 3-0, having blown a big lead against Green Bay in the opener. The Bucs also feel they should be 3-0 after a fierce comeback effort against Pittsburgh came up just short.

The Bears pride themselves on maintaining possession and winning the turnover battle. Through 15 career starts, Mitch Trubisky has thrown more picks than touchdowns, so Tampa Bay’s porous pass defense may catch a break.

The Bucs haven’t opened 2-0 on the road since 2010, which also happens to be the last time they won at least 10 games. They deserve a lot of credit for standing tall after a brutal 3-game stretch and a victory Sunday would make for a joyous bye week.

To get there, however, the Bucs have to avoid the Khalil Mack haymaker. Protect the football, play smart, play physical and keep your poise against a defense eager to punch you in the mouth.

“I’m thrilled, I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in,” Mack says. “The will to win, you see it, especially in the back end, the linebackers up front, just everybody is jelling together. It’s a brotherhood. Something special is going on.”

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 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, Ira is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show at 10:30 a.m. He’s also on BayNews 9 Mondays & Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. He enjoys beet salads, Riesling, tennis, Bette Midler, Chiefs victories and needling Joe. …WATCH IRA AND DERRICK BROOKS on the new TAMPA TWO show from The Identity Tampa Bay and JoeBucsFan.


20 Responses to “Tough Enough?”

  1. jmarkbuc Says:

    no trick plays that are the hallmark of the Eagles.

    I completely disagree, Sage..

    Seems to me Nagy runs all sorts of trickeration, shovel passes to tight ends etc. etc.

    In fact the game before they played the Cards, I remember thinking the tricky stuff was gonna be, well, tricky for our D to handle…

  2. Bird Says:

    Yah. Thanks John Gruden for making this game a definite challenge. Without Mack , the bucs win by 2 tds

  3. Buc1987 Says:

    Joe…Ira is a giant asset to this site.

    Great writing as always Ira. Then again I’m sure you already know that….

    GMC haters….. be gentle.

  4. Alphabucfan Says:

    Dam you gruden. So glad he’s not our coach. Lol

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We can win this game if we don’t turn it over…..period.

  6. jmarkbuc Says:

    Bookmark it… 9/29/18

    Nagy and tricky stuff…Smitty better be woke. Rookies too…

  7. Pickgrin Says:

    You da man Ira. Best sports writer in the state!

    This game is indeed a HUGE test for the 2018 Buccaneers.

    Most people looking at the game schedule back in July likely marked this 4th game as a “probable win” for the Bucs. I know I did. Playing in Chicago the last day in September looked like a respite from the murderers row of Saints and Eagles and Steelers.

    But the Bears got aggressive and paid a Kings ransom to acquire one of the best pass rushers in the league in his prime! Thus far, that very large bet Chicago made is paying off handsomely and the Bears are way more competitive than anyone expected from a team that was obviously still building this year…

    This game is where that “toughness” Ira kept talking about last season as missing from the 2017 Bucs squad – gets tested.

    Did the additions of Jensen and JPP and Curry and Allen(not playing) and Vea (hopefully playing) make this team tougher in the trenches where toughening was most needed?

    Results from the 1st 3 games in that regard are largely – “as yet to be determined” from my viewpoint. We’ve played well up front in spots.

    Offensively – Jensen is a clear upgrade in the middle. Marpet is WAY better than Pamphile. Benenoch is playing better than Sweezy but still needs improvement. Smith and Dot both seem to be playing pretty solid so far on the outside. OJ Howard has made a few nice blocks… Barber and Quizz have done well overall in their pass protection assignments…

    Defensively – JPP is a major upgrade over Ayers. Curry is a definite upgrade over Gholston/Clarke or whoever else played LDE last year. McCoy seems to be playing about the same as he always has which is very good but not special. Allen looked OK but less than good the 1st 2 games, and is now out for his 2nd game in a row. We have yet to see even one play from Unrein or our #12 overall pick manbeast in the middle Vita Vea. Hopefully Vea gets at least 20 snaps on Sunday and continues to ascend from there with playing time….

    So are the Bucs “tougher” up front where it really counts this year?? I believe we are definitely about to find out because as the Sage so wisely and cleverly prognosticated – tomorrow is gonna be a SLUGFEST at Soldier Field in the Windy City….

    Go Bucs! Channel your inner Mike Tyson for 3 hours tomorrow and kick some Bears ass!!!

  8. Mort Says:

    Trick plays have been the hallmark of this bears offense. They’re way too cute. If they run the ball with Jordan Howard, we are screwed. Fortunately they are getting super cute with their incessant passing and running everything through Trubiski – and he isn’t even close to ready for that yet. As a result, I’m far more optimistic. Also, our offense matches up well with their D. Their front 7 is the strength. If we can protect, our WRs should win every single matchup. Our fourth WR is better than the best corner they’ll have on Sunday.

  9. Ryan Jensen’s Hair Says:

    I’ve dealt with Mack before. I’ll dew it again

  10. jmarkbuc Says:


    “If we can protect”

    Mack is a force, hope we can reckon with him. Roquan ain’t no joke either.

  11. GP Says:

    I’m worried that any pass play over 5 yards will give the Bears enough time to get to the QB regardless of how well the O line plays -until- we have them breathing too hard to think

    Sure would be nice to have a 300lb beast of a fullback who could flatten Mack
    A Mack truck with flat tires isn’t worth much

  12. Erik w/ Clean Athletics Says:

    Vita Vea will be the best defensive player on the field sunday….


    A man can dream, can’t he?

  13. jmarkbuc Says:

    Hope VV goes, but it won’t be much, especially if it’s a poor field.

  14. unbelievable Says:

    I really doubt Vea plays until week 6.

    Just being realistic.

  15. BringBucsBack Says:

    I thought the Tyson quote was: “Everyone has a plan- until they get punched in the face!” It’s the same outcome either way, I guess.

  16. Mort Says:

    I would bet money that Vea suits up. Not enough bodies for a healthy scratch.

  17. Mike Johnson Says:

    This is the most important game for our BUCS going into the Bye. It is a..Must Win game people. And its not gonna be easy. Unlike the opponents we’ve had thus far, The Bears actually do have a good Defense. And they are coming hard.
    Hope we have rehearst. Fitz is going to be on his back a few times. So don’t be surprised. We just need to win by any means necessary. By 1 or 20..JUST WIN BABY!

  18. Destinjohnny Says:

    Wish we had a marquee back
    We can’t seem to draft one.
    Jason hit me up on a private message and I’ll pick a back for u in next years draft. He will be from the sec and he will be combat ready (no disrespect veterans)
    So Mack is going to have 50 shots at magic man…
    Man hope he is wearing his mouthpiece…

  19. Alanbucsfan Says:

    The defense was not that bad against Steelers-
    14 pts were given up on 2 plays- Conte ‘s tackle dummy show and Fitz’ pick six.

  20. Lucious Selmon Says:

    “Everyone has a plan — until they get punched in the mouth.”
    ~ Mike Tyson

    One does not typically look to Mike Tyson for snippets of ageless wisdom, but you cannot argue with this. One of my all-time favorite quotes–and so full of truth, it is thought provoking.

    Good choice, Ira!