Ira Kaufman’s 10 Takeaways From Bucs-Jaguars

December 25th, 2023

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What a difference a day makes. December 10th to be exact.

That’s the day the Bucs rallied for a 29-25 victory in Atlanta. They haven’t been the same team since.

Just ask the reeling Jaguars, who were never competitive during Sunday’s 30-12 setback. That’s four consecutive losses for Jacksonville and four straight victories for Tampa Bay.

Had the Bucs lost to the Falcons that fateful afternoon, they would have dropped to 5-8, with seven losses in nine games. Todd Bowles would have been a dead man walking and Buc Nation would have turned their attention to a quarterback-rich draft. The Kyle Trask mob would have been howling for No. 2 to replace Baker Mayfield.

But that’s not what happened. Mayfield threw a game-winning TD pass to Cade Otton in Atlanta and the last two weeks has seen this offense and defense come together impressively. Suddenly, the Bucs have the look of a dangerous team. They can wrap up a third consecutive NFC South crown by sweeping the Saints next week and confidence couldn’t have been higher in the locker room after dismantling the Jaguars.

Talk about your changed narratives.

Buc Nation is warming up to Bowles, although it’s been a slow crawl. Mayfield has won over teammates, coaches and fans with his blue-collar approach and passion for the game. Three potential free agents — Mayfield, Mike Evans and Antonio Winfield Jr. — are making compelling cases to remain Buccaneers for 2024.

It could all come crashing down in the next two weeks, but that feels unlikely at the moment. Instead, it feels like this is a franchise that survived a midseason meltdown and came out stronger for the struggle.

Since the Atlanta comeback, the Bucs have forged back-to-back complete games. Sometimes, all it takes is one emotional win to trigger a turnaround.

That seems to be the case here in Tampa.

Here’s how the Bucs extended Jacksonville’s misery and crept within one win of another division title:

* This offense is on a roll and it sure helps when you’re the recipient of four takeaways. Two interceptions and two fumbles undermined any chance the Jaguars had of being competitiive. The Bucs are now plus-10 in turnover differential, tied with Pittsburgh for second in the league behind the 49ers.

* Don’t be fooled by the final statistics — this game was a blowout. In taking a 20-0 halftime lead, Tampa Bay outgained Jacksonville 224-84 and held the Jaguars to minus-3 yards rushing.

* Winfield, the human stat machine, continued to do his thing. You know the drill by now … a sack, a pick and a fumble recovery. I’ve already got him penciled in for All-Pro status on my Associated Press ballot. Hard to believe he’s only 25.

* Mike Evans found the end zone two more times, giving him 10 TD receptions in the past 10 weeks. For a stud who somehow went 11 consecutive games without a score in 2022, it’s been a very impressive return to paydirt.

* Give Bowles props for how he handled the Devin White situation. He could have buried No. 45 for his mistakes, on and off the field, but he kept supporting White publicly. He was rewarded with an early pick by White that led to a TD and a 10-0 advantage. That doesn’t mean White will be back on the team next season, but he just might contribute down the stretch.

* Mayfield didn’t play as well as he did in Lambeau, but he was darned good on Sunday, throwing for 283 yards and posting a QB rating of 116.7 that dwarfed Trevor Lawrence’s 64.0 score. Most importantly, the Bucs are averaging 28.5 points during their streak and Mayfield’s leadership skills are a big reason why.

* Another three field goals by Chase McLaughlin, who is now 26-for-28 on the season and 32-for-32 on extra-point attempts. His big, accurate leg could well be a winning edge in the upcoming weeks.

* Were the Bucs perfect against the Jags? You can’t say that when your ground game averages only 1.9 yards per carry. Rachaad White contributed as a target but gained only 39 yards on his 20 carries.

* The Bucs played very well, but let’s not kid ourselves — the Jaguars stunk out the joint.

* It was nice to see the Bucs put it all together at home, where they have struggled to play a complete game. Even in beating the Bears, Titans and Panthers at RayJay, there was plenty to criticize. Not so on Sunday, when the only question was margin of victory.

14 Responses to “Ira Kaufman’s 10 Takeaways From Bucs-Jaguars”

  1. garro Says:

    You are the man Ira.
    As well as the mysterious AP All Pro voter!

    Go Bucs!

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Our Defense finally caught fire……and, here’s a game where Camarda wasn’t featured.

  3. Front Four Says:

    Need two more W’s.

  4. BucU Says:

    That win was a great Christmas present.
    Thanks Santa!

  5. darengibo Says:

    DW also had the sack taken off the board with the weakest roughing QB call

  6. Mr. Editor Says:

    Thank you, Ira! Merry Christmas! My ten observations:
    *Palmer had a good game, particularly in the first half
    *I’ll forgive the lack of a running game because the offensive game plan didn’t seem to call for it. They are running shotgun formations a large percentage of the time. Play action passes seemed to be working, too.
    *The focus is on D White because of the drama (he mixed rushes and pass coverage quite well), but LVD had a great game, too.
    *The defensive line had good penetration; by the third quarter, Shaq was anticipating the snap count.
    *Mayfield threw with precision, particularly to the sidelines.
    *I was holding my breath when Mayfield was under pressure, but he was a “pinball” and “Houdini”.
    *I was worried about Wirfs, who looked like he was limping throughout the game.
    *JTS is gone; Carlton Davis might be, too (because of injuries)
    *I loved the idea of David Moore on special teams
    *I hope that the hype machine doesn’t go into overdrive. Just beat the Aints!

  7. Lefty Says:

    Todd is a work in progress. Clearly has the D flying around better; liking his more aggressive tendencies on 4th down. His clock management continues to be questionable.. we had all 3 TO’s at the end of the first half and could’ve had the ball back with time to score but he opted to head to the locker room

  8. Glass Half Full Guy Says:

    One more win guarantees a division title, playoff appearance and a winning record.

    Not bad for a team many picked to be last in the division and Vegas had us at 6.5 wins.

    Some fans say “We shouldn’t be happy with mediocrity”. The league as a whole is “mediocre”. Philly and Dallas each only have 2 more wins than we do right now.

    We only really had our butts handed to us twice (Philly and 49ers games). We were competitive or had chances to win most of the games we lost.

    We still have room for improvement but it seems to be coming sooner than most of us expected.

    Merry Christmas!

  9. Beeej Says:

    I believe if we meet Philly in the playoffs we can win, (not so SF)

  10. SlyPirate Says:

    Bucs would play Cowboys. Ugh. I’ll pass.

  11. Proudbucsfan Says:

    I think Bowles and Mayfield both recognize there deficiencies and have adjusted well and that’s what it takes in this league. The whole team is fighting to win and my confidence level for the coach and quarterback has risen. Mayfield has improved greatly the key for him is to keep playing consistently. I think with the team playing this way we could go deep into the playoffs. I do believe anything is possible the 2011 giants won the superbowl with a 9-7 record

  12. Cobraboy Says:

    The roughing call against Winfield was pure 100% unadulterated horsepucky.

  13. Cobraboy Says:

    The roughing call against Winfield was pure 100% unadulterated horsepucky.

    That’s two games in a row where O, D, & STs showed up for a complete game.

    Now dismantle the Ain’ts, and I’ll start to “believe.”

  14. Pewter power Says:

    Suddenly, the Bucs have the look of a dangerous team.

    Errr yea until they play an NFC playoff caliber team.