By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw – In a Sunday Night Football matchup, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to their divisional rival, the New Orleans Saints 9-0 in a game where the Bucs were expected to clinch the NFC South. To the astonishment of all, the Bucs not only failed to find the endzone but could not connect on a field goal. By the end of the night, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady was sacked four times, completing 26 of 48 passing attempts for 214 yards with one interception. Commenting on the shutout, Brady said, “It was a tough night, we didn’t do much of anything right, we are not going to win if we don’t score points.” Late in the fourth quarter, field cameras would catch Brady smashing a tablet in frustration.
Adding to their woes, the Bucs would lose their mighty three to game injuries – wide receiver Chris Godwin would leave the game with a knee injury, later reported as a torn ACL, effectively ending his 2021 season. Brady angered by the hit on Godwin wants to see the rules changed, “I would like to speak to the rules competition committee at some point this offseason. I’ve seen that hit too many times, where a defenseless pass catcher is in the process of catching a ball, then he’s hit by the defender. A lot of the defenders will say, ‘Well, we can’t hit them in the head anymore.’ Well, the point is, you can’t hit anyone in the head anymore and you can’t hit anyone in the knees anymore, except for receivers,” Brady stated. “You can still hit them in the knees, which doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Mike Evans would both suffer hamstring injuries. Without the mighty three, the Bucs chances of winning in post-season play diminished as “58% of the team’s production in terms of total yards and 54% of total touchdowns” are in their hands. The Saints have beaten the Buccaneers in regular season play for the past three years and this time without the on-field guidance of Saints head coach, Sean Payton, who tested positive for COVID-19.
The shut-out of the Bucs, the first time since 2006, has major implications in their quest to reach Super Bowl LVI. The Bucs need to finish a full game ahead of the Green Bay Packers to earn the No. 1 seed. A tall task as the Packers are currently 11-3, leading the NFC North. In an attempt to fill-in the gaps left by Godwin and possibly Fournette who may be headed to the injured reserve list, the Bucs have signed free-agent veteran running back Le’Veon Bell pending a physical and Bucs fan will see the return of Antonio Brown who completed a three-game suspension by the league. On Brown’s return to the lineup, Bruce Arians, Bucs head coach said, “Yeah, it’s in the best interest of our football team. Both of these guys (Brown and safety Mike Edwards) have served their time and we’ll welcome them back.” With three games remaining in the 2021 season, the Bucs will travel to Carolina on Sunday to face the Panthers (5-9), then the NY Jets on January 2 before returning to Raymond James Stadium for their final regular season game against the Panthers for the second time on January 9.
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