April 24, 2024
TAMPA, Fla. — From the very first day that Todd Bowles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the sphere for coaching camp, few outdoors the group gave them a lot of an opportunity this season.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield was on his fourth workforce in 19 months, attempting to fill the just lately retired Tom Brady’s huge footwear. The roster lacked family names from the Bucs’ 2020 Tremendous Bowl season and as a substitute featured unproven kids in a few of these key spots. Oddsmakers predicted Bowles could possibly be among the many first NFL head coaches fired this season. The Bucs simply by no means had that championship really feel, at the very least to not outsiders.

So, it got here as no shock early final week when, regardless of having defied expectations by successful the NFC South, Tampa Bay was pegged by Las Vegas as a house underdog for its NFC wild-card matchup with a sagging Philadelphia Eagles workforce.

The Buccaneers merely shrugged off the dearth of respect, then attacked the Eagles with a vengeance Monday night time at Raymond James Stadium.

Driving an aggressive defensive efficiency and paced by a gutsy efficiency from Mayfield, the Buccaneers thumped Philadelphia 32-9 to advance to the divisional spherical of the playoffs. Tampa Bay will journey to Detroit for a Sunday afternoon sport in opposition to the Lions, who’re driving excessive after beating the L.A. Rams for his or her first playoff victory in 32 years.

“The underdog position doesn’t trouble us,” linebacker Shaquil Barrett mentioned. “We all know our capabilities within the locker room, it doesn’t matter what is projected or what individuals would suppose goes to occur within the sport. We all the time are available considering we’ve received an excellent likelihood of successful the sport. So, individuals noticed us because the underdog tonight, and we all know they’ll see us because the underdog going into Detroit, however we all know we’ve received to maintain doing the identical stuff.”

GO DEEPER

Buccaneers end off reeling Eagles in NFC wild-card matchup

It’s usually mentioned that groups tackle the persona of their strongest leaders, and the Buccaneers aren’t any completely different. Gamers will readily admit they’re a mix of Bowles and Mayfield.

Bowles, the second-year head coach, is stoic and unflinching but in addition intensely aggressive. The previous defensive again is calculated but extremely aggressive. Mayfield, in the meantime, is so unapologetically himself. He’s brash at occasions, all the time fiery as a competitor and performs with the toughness of a center linebacker.

Drawing inspiration from their coach and quarterback, the Buccaneers steeled themselves all season in opposition to the surface noise, notably doing a four-game dropping streak that stretched from October to November, and morphed right into a 1-6 skid.

“We simply stayed the course,” Barrett mentioned. “We all the time knew we have been a greater workforce than we have been on the dropping streak that we had. … Now, all the things is beginning to click on and that’s why we stick with this system and belief the method and simply preserve doing what you’re alleged to do. We knew it was going to start out working.”

The boldness grew throughout a four-game win streak and 5-1 run by the Bucs to shut out the common season whereas clinching the division. And the resolve remained simply as sturdy this week because the Buccaneers ready to avenge a 25-11 loss to the Eagles in Week 3.

The Buccaneers wished to show the tables after giving up 472 whole yards, together with 201 on the bottom, to the Eagles in that preliminary assembly. Mission completed. Monday night time, it was the Buccaneers who amassed 426 whole yards and 23 first downs, changing 6 of 14 third-down makes an attempt. They held the Eagles to 276 yards (solely 42 yards speeding) and 0-for-9 on third down.

Bowles and his protection delivered a signature efficiency whereas eliminating the specter of the Eagles’ speeding assault. They compelled quarterback Jalen Hurts to beat them with a short-staffed broad receiving unit whereas additionally nursing a painful and slowly therapeutic dislocated center finger on his throwing hand.

Turning the Eagles one-dimensional enabled Bowles to dial up one blitz-heavy package deal after one other. Hurts (sacked thrice, together with a security) and his teammates and coaches by no means discovered find out how to alter.

Linebacker Devin White mentioned the Bucs protection entered the sport “with a dominant mindset. We wished to leap on them early and simply beat them. I believe it was the preparation. That performed a giant half and coming in right here with a successful perspective.”

Offensive gamers drew gas from these defensive heroics, in addition to inspiration from Mayfield. The quarterback was so battered and bruised from rib and ankle accidents, he introduced in his private physiotherapist twice throughout the week in hopes that the additional remedy would give him a shot at taking part in.

It labored. Mayfield handed for 337 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions whereas additionally scrambling for 16 yards on two carries. Mayfield grew to become solely the second Buccaneers quarterback — Brady is the opposite — to cross for 300 yards or extra in a playoff contest.

“He gutted it out,” Bowles mentioned. “I imply, if you happen to checked out him throughout the week, he was limping round, he wouldn’t apply and he was getting a bit higher every day. … He by no means flinched (Monday). He made play after play after play.”

Tight finish Cade Otton, who had a team-high eight catches for 89 yards, mentioned the Bucs as a workforce tackle Mayfield’s character.

“It’s simply watching his actions. The way in which he performs, the best way he practices, the best way he leads, it’s very real and he’s all the time simply competing,” Otton mentioned “He’s desirous to win, however he additionally desires camaraderie with us. It’s only a nice particular person to have because the chief of our workforce.”

“He’s a canine,” left deal with Tristan Wirfs mentioned. “He’s a brilliant powerful man and unbelievable competitor. He’s been doing all the things he can to be on the market with us. It’s simply superior to see.”

The Buccaneers listed Mayfield as questionable getting into the sport, however the quarterback mentioned there was by no means an opportunity in his personal thoughts that he wouldn’t play Monday night time.

“We labored extraordinarily exhausting to get an opportunity to be within the playoffs and we simply wished a possibility and our guys got here out and performed actually, rather well,” mentioned Mayfield, whose three landing passes went for 44, 56 and 23 yards. “Particular groups, protection — as soon as once more … we’re joyful, however nonetheless received extra to go.”

The redemption tour continues Sunday in Detroit, the place the Bucs will try to avenge a 20-6 Week 6 loss to the Lions. Detroit is an early 6 1/2-point favourite, however nobody in Tampa cares about that. Why would they, given the chances they’ve defied up to now?

(Photograph: Julio Aguilar / Getty Pictures)


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