TAMPA - There's no doubt that Bucs fans enjoyed the beat-down of the Panthers last Sunday and that the 2-0 start has lead to a renewed optimism throughout Tampa Bay. That is immediately evident by the fact that despite preseason media reports suggesting a season of TV blackouts, this week's contest against the Steelers at Raymond James Stadium should sell out. The media is paying attention again and suddenly sports talk radio remembered that Tampa has an NFL franchise. Winning can quickly cure all ills.
It is important however to remain focused and understand that while today we are undefeated that means little going forward. This team could still make a prophet out of Peter King and run off 14 straight losses so one must temper the excitement and turn to reason when analyzing these Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sure, some of you are going to dance and sing and let your friends know how great it is to be undefeated. You'll call your Dallas Cowboys fan buddy and ask him whats wrong with Romo and offer to trade him Freeman in jest. You reveled in the joy of seeing Brett Favre decompose on the field against Miami, knowing that Cadillac Williams' club is already two wins better than Adrian Peterson's club. You may even start telling everyone that you have a better record than Peyton and Brady, and inform them that you are tied for first place with the Super Bowl champion Saints.
You need to calm down.
The Bucs have two victories, a feat that took them fifteen weeks last season. That's great, but it should not be overlooked that the teams they have played so far are now a combined 0-4. In addition, both teams are already, in only Week 2, using their second string quarterback. The Browns are a mess, they are in the first year of a major rebuild and couldn't beat Kansas City in their home opener this week. Jake Delhomme and Matt Moore will never be mistaken for Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees; Jimmy Clausen, in one drive in the fourth quarter completed more passes than Moore did the entire first three. These aren't exactly pillars of NFL success that have crumbled under the might of the power-house pewter pirate ship.
You are going to tell me that a win is a win, and in the NFL every win is sacred. You are going to tell me that the Bucs have nothing to apologize for and that they can only play the teams that they have been scheduled.I agree with you, and you are absolutely correct. But while there is many a reason to be excited about the best start in seven years, there are also causes for concern.
In addition to the mediocrity of the opponents, there's the Tampa Bay running game, or better put, the lack thereof. Cadillac Williams was once a surefire star running back in this league but two knee surgeries later it is clear that he is no longer an elite back. Through two games Caddy has carried the ball 49 times to the tune of only 126 yards. That's a paltry 2.6 yard per carry average. Against playoff caliber opponents and staunch passing defenses that simply wont get the job done. Expounding upon this issue is that the Bucs have had only two rushes of greater than 15 yards and one of those belongs to quarterback Josh Freeman. The offense is going to need to find some way to move the ball as they won't always be able to count on Freeman's feet and arm.
While the team has played well against mediocre opponents its first two games, the schedule upcoming is not as favorable. The next three matchups are all against playoff teams from a year ago, including the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. The Pittsburgh Steelers come to town 2-0 despite being down to their third-string quarterback, led primarily by a suffocating defense that held the sensational Chris Johnson to 34 yards and forced seven turnovers last week in Tennessee. A trip to Cincinnati after the bye week, and hosting the Super Bowl champions in Week 6 will bring no relief and prove great challenges for a young Buccaneers defense that so far has bent but not broken.
Ultimately this season, like the future of this franchise, lies in Josh Freeman's hands. He was handpicked to be the face of the franchise for many years to come and his maturation is going to be the key that leads this Bucs team from farce to fantasy. If he can continue to get outstanding help from a young, energetic defense and if his bond with rookie Mike Williams continues to grow then this team can surprise a lot of people... Peter King especially.
So today, enjoy this team and its record because getting out of bed is easier, the air is cooler, the sun is brighter and birds sing sweeter when our Tampa Bay Buccaneers are undefeated. Wear your Bucs shirt with pride, go out and get yourself a new Josh Freeman jersey. Get some tickets to the game and fill up that stadium. But know that there will be bumps in the road, and there will be growing pains with such a young group. The fans, as well as this team, must maintain an even keel as the pirate ship will run into choppy waters along this journey.
No matter what may happen the rest of this season, it sure is refreshing to know this team is finally heading in the right direction.