Suffice it to say that in losing 9-0 to arch-rival New Orleans, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t “…want it that way.”
The defending champions expect to be ‘larger than life’ again, but a slew of injuries means the Bucs will have to ‘roll with it’. After the Sunday, Dec. 19 debacle, Backstreet Boys frontman and Bucs superfan Nick Carter tried to cheer on quarterback Tom Brady and “Everybody.”
“In the words of the Backstreet Boys, ‘He’ll be right back,'” Carter tweeted.
Brady and the Bucs (10-4) are looking to show they’re “back” in Carolina on Sunday, Dec. 26. Panthers fans, meanwhile, no doubt wanted their 5-9 team to “stop playing games” in a rollercoaster season roll amid quarterback Cam Newton’s return.
“We have to go out and play well. There are no excuses,” Brady told the media on Dec. 23. “So we will work harder to get it right.
It’s the next first step for the Bucs to prepare for the NFL’s big dance and travel to the West Coast in Los Angeles for Super Bowl 56.
Same track, different supporting cast for Bucs Offense
Brady only had two matches with his original cast of Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski. Now Brady has a very different crew backed up by backups.
Godwin tore his anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 19 and will miss the remainder of the season. Evans will miss Sunday’s game against Carolina with a hamstring injury according to the Tampa Bay Times. Brown is fresh off an ankle injury and a three-game suspension. Gronkowski was only back five games after injuries early in the season.
Named receivers Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Justin Watson and Cyril Grayson will have to make plays on Sunday. Watson got to see his first action of the season after the Bucs activated him Dec. 24 from the physically unable to play list by Pro Football Talk. The Bucs also moved Grayson from the practice squad on Christmas Day, Bunccaeers.com reported.
“I think it’s important. You have to find different ways to win with different players and different avenues,” Brady said Dec. 23. “It’s not always the same thing that’s going to win all the time, so I always feel like it’s there have to be certain types of opportunities that guys are looking for in times like this, and you have to because you’re challenged in different ways. It makes you think about thinking differently, and maybe some of those things can add to other aspects of what we’re trying to do offensively.
Different backfield strip for the Bucs
Tampa Bay also enters Sunday’s game with backfield adjustments, as running back Leonard Fournette will miss the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury.
Ronald Jones II will take charge after being second back most of the season. Jones notably took the longest touchdown run in Bucs history 98 yards at home last time out at Carolina in 2020.
The Bucs won’t rely on that kind of recall from Jones. Ke’Shawn Vaughn could be ported, and the Bucs added marquee free agent Le’Veon Bell to the backfield on Dec. 22. Kenjon Barner also quit the practice squad on Christmas Day per Buccaneers.com.