Down 17-0 at halftime, the Bucs rallied to beat their NFC South foe 31-27 to move to 9-5 on the year and essentially lock up a playoff spot.
Apparently, Bruce Arians had the same thought.
"If we can play 30 minutes like that," Arians told his team after the game, "why the hell can't we play 60?"
This has been the Bucs issue all season long. Outside of the consecutive weeks against the Packers and Raiders in Weeks 6 and 7, the Bucs have been unable to look like a conference-title-contending team for consecutive weeks.
"We lost to the Chiefs and the Rams [each] by 3. Both of those games… playing this way," Arians said in his postgame comments. "We're not going to beat those good teams playing this way. We've got to play better in the first half than we played today."
He had conveniently left out the two shellackings at the hands of the Saints. Their first matchup, in Week 1, went the way of New Orleans 34-23. Their second meeting in primetime was a 38-3 massacre that was a meaningless field goal away from being a shutout.
It was a wild Week 15 Sunday and there's a lot to go over. Pick Six Podcast host Will Brinson and the Superfriends are here to break it all down; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Nevertheless, the Bucs have indeed struggled in the first quarter. Of the 36 touchdowns Tampa's defense has allowed all season, 12 of them have come in the first quarter. And of the 46 touchdowns Tampa's offense has scored this year, only eight have come in the first quarter. The Buccaneers have scored one first-quarter touchdown since Halloween.
We gave a collective pass to the Bucs to start the season. Tom Brady needed an acclimation period. But they started 5-2 this season before signing Antonio Brown and are 4-3 since. There's little to inspire one to believe these Bucs can beat the class of the NFC—the Rams, the Packers and the Saints with a healthy Drew Brees.
Perhaps Brady still has magic left. Maybe playing all the top conference opponents already will benefit Tampa Bay come January. But the Bucs inability to string together a quality game, and then another quality game, is alarming enough.
More Week 15 insider notes
- This was exactly the kind of game I wanted to see from the Ravens. Winning in the NFL is hard and I get that. But I would rather playoff teams look more like Buffalo on Saturday than the Packers. Baltimore was facing an overmatched opponent and didn't play down to the Jaguars on either side of the ball. Sunday marked the first time since Week 5 an opponent not named the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to rush for 100 yards against Baltimore.
- Stephon Gilmore was in line to get a major contract extension at the end of this season. It probably wouldn't be from New England, but the reigning Defensive Player of the Year was going to cash in for the second -- and last -- time in his career. Instead, what looked like a serious non-contact knee injury may sideline Gilmore for the rest of the year. Throw in a lower salary cap in 2021 and Gilmore may have to play next year on what amounts to a one-year deal.
- Dwayne Haskins finished with a respectable stat line of 38-for-55 for 295 yards, one touchdown and two picks. The issue for Haskins, as it's always been, was that he struggles when throwing the ball down the field. On passes of 10 or more yards in the air, Haskins was 3-of-9 for 56 yards and two interceptions. You can sneak a win in here or there like that, but an NFL team normally can't win football games like that.
- I'm not sure the 49ers will play Week 1 with either Jimmy Garoppolo or Nick Mullens on the team. We've talked plenty about the Niners moving on from Jimmy G (Patriots, anyone?) but Mullens has been bad this year outside of his game against the Rams (thank you, Robert Saleh). Kyle Shanahan said earlier in the week he'll need to watch the film from the entire season so he doesn't make an emotional decision once January hits, but it's hard to imagine San Francisco goes into next season with those guys on their depth chart.